2 May 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 5

Welcome to Boeingville

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Tuesday, April 14, 2071

2106 hours

    Treehugger let the Commodore coast to a stop outside the gated entrance to Boeingville, the past of Seattle maintained by Federated-Boeing.  Two security guards, both wearing security armour, helmets and goggles, both carrying submachine guns, stepped out of the booth.  One stepped over to the driver's window.  "May I see your ID?"

    Treehugger powered her window down.  "Certainly."

    From the back seat, Johnson said, "I've got it."  He leaned forward to get a look at the guard.  "Stone, right?  Transmitting clearance now."  He entered a code on his commlink.

    Both guards stiffened.  Stone saluted.  "Are the women with you, sir?"

    "They are."  He looked at Treehugger.  "How far behind are your friends?"

    The booming throb of a Harley Scorpion answered his question.  Treehugger hooked a thumb at the motorcycle.  "That should be them."

    Johnson turned his attention back to Stone.  "Those two are as well.  Log them as Smith."

    "All of them, sir?"

    "All of them.  I'll mark the logs when I get a chance."

    "Sir."  Stone stepped away from the Commodore.  His partner moved out of the way.  The barrier dropped, giving the vehicles access into the corporate enclave.

    With Johnson giving directions, Treehugger led Charles through the quiet lit streets, past semi-detached homes with well-groomed lawns.  Few people were out, though the team passed the  occasional car heading towards a factory complex.  "Nice place," Treehugger said.  "Peaceful.  How much for a house here?"

    "Employees only."  Johnson shrugged.  "Sorry."

    "Probably for the best.  I'm sure the community association would have kittens over me working on my car at night in the driveway."

    The small convoy reached an apartment building.  Johnson showed Treehugger where the visitor's parking was.  The team gathered at the Commodore before surrounding Johnson.  Charles again took the lead as they made their way across the asphalt and into the building.  They took the stairs instead of the elevator, Oswald and Numbers puffing when they reached the fifth floor.  Johnson pointed out his home, number 514, down the hall from the fire exit.  Johnson insisted on taking point, arguing that he had the passcode for his apartment.  With reluctance, Charles let him, but the troll kept one hand on his Deputy.

    At number 514, Johnson unlocked the door.  Charles pulled him aside and walked in.  He saw a woman walking out of the bathroom.  She stopped on seeing the troll.  Her eyes widened.  Johnson ducked under Charles' arm to enter his home.  "Mira, it's okay.  They're with me."

    The woman's mouth worked but no sound came out.  Finally, she said, "Peter, what the hell is this?"

    "Mira, I can explain," Johnson started.

    Numbers slipped past Charles.  "Mr. Johnson, do you know this woman?"

    "Johnson?  Peter, what is this woman talking about?"

    Johnson raised his hands, trying to stop everyone from talking over him.  "Give me a chance."  He turned to Numbers.  "Yes, I know her.  She's my wife."  He walked over to Mira's side.  Snaking an arm around her waist, Johnson kissed her on the cheek.  "Mira, these people just helped me out of a jam.  I really can't say more about it."

    Mira jerked out of her husband's grasp.  "You could have called and told me you were bringing people over."  She looked over at Charles.  "I've never seen him at department outings."

    Charles stepped aside to let Treehugger and Oswald in.  "Ma'am, we were hired to protect your husband."

    "Protect my husband?"  Mira laughed.  "Pete, what are you pulling?"

    Oswald flopped on to the white couch.  "Mira, right?  Mira, we're experts at keeping people alive.  That's all you need to know."

    "Do you know who my husband is?"

    "Peter Tarkov, Security Manager of Federated-Boeing," Numbers said.  "I saw the KSAF interview."

    Both Johnson and Treehugger turned to face the hacker.  "You knew who he was?" the rigger asked.  "You didn't tell us why?"

    "He didn't want to tell us."  Numbers looked over to Johnson's, to Tarkov's wife.  "We were supposed to start Friday, but someone wanted to make a move on him tonight.  He called us, we picked him up."

    Mira glared at Tarkov.  "You said you were going to the Rubber Suit to watch monster trids."

    "To be fair, ma'am," Charles said, "that's where we met him."

    "Well, you got him home," Mira said.  "You can leave whenever you want."

    "I don't think so."  Oswald stretched.  "There were, what, five?  Six?"

    "We saw three out front," Treehugger said.

    "And four in the alley," Numbers added.

    "Seven men.  Seven?  Shit."  Oswald rubbed his chin.  "Seven men, plus a mage of some sort somewhere.  Who all managed to find your dear husband and tried to ambush him.  No, we're not leaving."

    Mira huffed.  "Peter has an entire department to protect him."

    "Then why hire us?" Numbers asked.  She walked behind the couch and leaned over it.  "Mrs. Tarkov, we're shadowrunners.  We fill in where corporate assets can't.  Your husband has a reason to look outside Federated-Boeing for protection."

    "Pete, is that true?"

    Tarkov sighed.  "There's something happening.  I've seen reports of attempted intrusions in areas that are empty.  I've had to place some of my men on suspension because of irregularities in their Matrix transactions.  I have key men who I trust, but I want them here, watching you and the kids."

    "So you hire these . . . these . . .."

    "Riff-raff's a good word," Oswald suggested.

    Mira shot the mage a dirty look.  "These riff-raff to look after you?"

    "We did well tonight," Treehugger said.  "That's without any prep time on top."

    "I didn't want to worry you, honey," Tarkov said.  He wrapped his arms around his wife's waist.

    "And a great job you're doing of that now, Peter."  Mira sighed.  "So what happens now?"

    "We move in," Treehugger said.  "Stay close, make sure that nothing happens to either of you."

    "What about the kids?"

    Oswald sat up.  "Kids?"

    "How many kids?" Charles asked.

    "Two, my son and daughter.  Mira, where are they?"

    "Holden's in the study doing his homework.  Skye went over to a friend's home to do a project.  Greer's, I think.  Do you want me to call her home?"

    "Please," Numbers said.  "We're going to have some ground rules for the next few days and it'll be easier if everyone is here for them."

    Mira kissed her husband on the cheek, then disappeared to the kitchen as she tapped an access code on her commlink.  Tarkov leaned on the back of an overstuffed cream coloured chair.  "I'll transfer the two thousand for tonight.  I'll go let my son know I'm home."  He pushed away from the chair and walked down a back hallway.

    Numbers sat down in the overstuffed chair.  "This just keeps getting better.  We weren't contracted for all this."

    "So we're supposed to let whoever is after Mr. J. go after his family instead?"  Treehugger sighed.  "We're getting paid well."

    "Fifteen hundred a day, for exclusive work.  We're all going to need clothes for the next few days if we're not going home.  And I don't know about you and Charles, but Oswald and I could really use a good night's sleep after that fight."

    "Who's going to lay down the rules?" Charles asked.  "I doubt that the family is going to listen to me."

    "I will," Numbers volunteered.  "What's another presentation?"

    Tarkov returned to the family room, a ten year boy at his heels.  The kid stopped when he saw Charles.  He craned his head up to take in the full length of the troll.  "Wiz!" the boy exclaimed.

    "Holden, these are my new employees," Tarkov explained.  "They'll be staying with us a few days."

    Holden pulled his attention away from Charles to look at the rest of the newcomers.  "Hi!"  He turned back to his father.  "Did you hire shadowrunners, Dad?"

    "You have a very observant boy there, Mr. Tarkov," Oswald said.

    Mira returned to the living room.  "He watches too much trid."  She approached her son.  "Have you finished your homework?"

    "Yes, Mom."

    "And did you submit it like you were supposed to?"

    Holden sighed with exasperation.  "Yes, Mom."

    "Good."  Mira hugged Holden.  She took him over to the couch and sat down.  "Why do you think these nice people are shadowrunners?"

    Holden pointed at Oswald.  "He looks just like the ones on the trid."

    Oswald smirked at Numbers.  "See?  Scruffy."

    "Is your daughter on her way home?" Treehugger asked.

    "She shouldn't be long," Mira said.  "She's only a few floors up."


    Numbers got out of her chair.  "We are really sorry for the disruption, Mrs. Tarkov.  We'll try not to get in everyone's way."

    "A little too late for that, isn't it?"  Mira took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.  "I'll see about getting extra blankets for tonight.  The study has some space to crash on."

    Holden looked up at his mother.  "Mom, can the troll stay in my room?"

    "We'll see, dear."

    The front door opened.  Charles spun to face the person coming in, his hand on his revolver's butt in an instant.  A young teenaged girl, dark-haired except for a neon blue streak down the part, stormed in.  "I don't believe you'd do this to me, Mom!"  The girl stopped dead on seeing the troll.

    "It's okay," Tarkov said.  "That's Skye, my daughter."

    Skye kept her eyes on Charles.  "Dad, what's going on?"

    Charles backed down, easing his hand out from under his long coat.  "No worries," he said.  He stepped away from the teen.


    "Skye, sit, please," Mira said.

    Skye felt her wait to the cream easy chair.  She dropped into it, sitting on the edge of the cushion.  "Someone want to explain this?  I was busy with Greer and you said I could stay out until eleven to get the homework done."

    Numbers stepped into the middle of the room.  "Thank you for coming home," she started.  "Your father has hired my team to keep all of you safe over the next few days.  Unfortunately, that means we'll have to stay near all of you.  There will be some disruption to your routine, but we will try to keep that at a minimum."  The hacker started pacing, making sure to meet and hold each of the Tarkovs' expressions for several seconds.  "I'll work with your father to make sure he can integrate us into FedBoeing for as long as we need.  We all appreciate your cooperation."

    The family sat quietly for several long moments.  Skye broke the silence by saying, "Well, this sucks."

    "Skye!" her mother admonished.

    "No, Mrs. Tarkov, it's okay," Numbers said.  "Let her speak.  It's best if we knew about problems before they can crop up.  Skye?"

    "This sucks!" the teen repeated.  "I have plans for the week.  I've got the project with Greer and a bunch of us were going to the trid-plex Thursday.  I can't cancel my plans."

    "You just want to see Alex."

    "Oh, shut up, Holden."  Skye sneered at her brother.

    "Both of you knock it off now," Mira warned.

    "Or what, we're grounded?"  Skye rolled her eyes.  "Like that's a threat now.  Not like I'll be allowed out until these guys are gone, whenever that might be."

    Oswald got up of the couch.  "I've got this covered.  I can go with Skye on her outings."

    "Oh, just what I need, some creep following me.  My friends are going to be just so thrilled."

    "They won't see me."

    Skye turned to face Oswald.  "What are you, some sort of magician?"

    Oswald smiled like the cat who ate the canary.  "Got in one.  Your friends won't see me."

    "That work for you Skye?" Tarkov asked.

    Skye huffed.  "I suppose."

    "Does this mean one of you will be following me around work?" Mira asked.  "I have access to important data.  I don't want it to get compromised."

    "Mr. Tarkov, how secure are the facilities here?" Numbers asked.

    "Officers are under close scrutiny twenty-four seven.  Without getting into details, if someone tried to hurt Mira at her desk, they'd have to get past several layers of security."

    Treehugger nodded.  "That jibes with what I've heard about this place."

    "What about me?" Holden asked.  "I go places, too."

    Mira ruffled her son's hair.  "You can bring your friends here to play with after school this week.  I'm sure their parents won't mind."

    "How do your kids get to school?" Treehugger asked.

    "A bus picks them up at the door in the mornings, drops them off there in the afternoon," Tarkov said.  "With Skye a teenager now, we don't bother with afterschool care for Holden."

    Numbers nodded.  "One of us will walk them down and back, then.  Mr. Tarkov, I'd like to work with you to set up temporary access and IDs for us while we're here.  We'll also need clothes.  Does anyone have any questions?"

    Holden held his hand up.  "Do any of you have cyberware?"

    Mira stood up.  "Come on, Holden.  Time for bed."

    "Aw, Mom, I'm not tired."

    Mira started herding her son towards his room.  "It's been a long day and you have school in the morning.  Let's go, kiddo."  The two disappeared into the back hallway.

    Skye got out of the overstuffed chair.  She ran an appraising look over the shadowrunners.  "Is it really that bad?" she asked.

    Charles shrugged.  "Might be.  Might not be.  We were hired to make sure the 'might be' doesn't happen."

    "I see."  The teen ran over to her father and hugged him.  "I don't like this, Dad."

    "You're not supposed to, sweetie."  Tarkov kissed the top of his daughter's head.  "Did you get all of your homework done?"

    "Except the accounting, but it's due Friday.  I don't see why I have to take it.  I can make a spreadsheet to do all that work."

    "Computers make mistakes," Numbers said.  "They're also not good as seeing through the common tricks."

    Tarkov and his daughter stared at the hacker.  "You know about accounting?" Skye asked.

    Numbers smiled.  "We're not all street monsters and anti-social combat mages and cold-blooded killers.  Did you see the interview your father did for KSAF?  The one with Amanda Pierce?"

    Skye nodded.  "What about it?"

    "Charles and I were also featured."

    Tarkov tilted his head.  "Charles, I remember.  Hard not to.  I don't remember seeing you."

    Numbers activated a macro.  Her hair shimmered, changing from jet black to a light brown with a pink streak starting above her left eyebrow and flowing down.  "I used this hair colour for the interview."

    "Now I remember.  You spoke well."


    "If you want, I could tutor Skye, help her with her accounting homework."

    "You sure?" Skye asked.

    Numbers smiled.  "Someone needs to keep you safe.  Take advantage of my knowledge while I'm here."  The hacker chuckled.  "No extra charge."

    "Thanks.  Dad, I'm just going to let Greer know why I had come home early, okay?"

    "Don't tell her everything," Tarkov said.

    Skye rolled her eyes.  "I won't."  She kissed her father on the cheek then ran to her room.

    Numbers sat on the couch.  "Nice kids."

    "They are.  Smart, too.  Take more after their mother that way."  Tarkov joined Numbers on the couch.  "What do you need in terms of IDs?"

    "I'll make a list and send it to you," Numbers said.  "In short, though, we need access that will let us pass unchallenged as much as possible and give us access to places you and your family go.  I doubt we'll need floor access to the factories or for anything that is top secret."

    Tarkov thought over the suggestion.  "I'll see what I can do.  Give me names and biometric info with your list so I can get the datawork started."

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