18 Jul 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 16

Whatever Happened to the Good Cop?

(Language warning in effect)
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Monday, April 20, 2071
2043 hours

    Charles threw the unconscious gunman into a chair in the warehouse.  "I'll need something to tie him down."

    "Two-Tone's probably got something in his office."  Treehugger dashed to the office door.  "I'll go look."

    Oswald paced along the walls, his eyes unfocused.  Numbers kept up with him, clearing his path of obstructions.  Treehugger returned with a length of coarse rope.  She helped Charles restrain their prisoner.  Oswald completed his walk.  "Nothing in the astral."

    "Good."  Charles stepped away from the gunman.  "Chummer here is still out."

    "Give me a moment," Treehugger said.  "I'll get the cars' sensors going.  It won't be much, but something's better than nothing."

    "Your friend's a mechanic, right?" Oswald asked.  "Shouldn't he have drones around here?"

    "Locked up tight.  He doesn't want his clientele walking away with them.  He might have some stim patches, though."

    "Get them," Charles said.  "We need answers."

    "Right."  Treehugger disappeared into the office again.

    Numbers crouched down in front of the gunman.  "How are we going to do this?  I doubt he's going to be all that receptive to me being nice to him when he wakes up."

    "Maybe if you showed off more cleavage?" Oswald suggested.  The mage smirked.

    Numbers glared at her teammate.  "Really, now?"

    Oswald walked over to join the hacker.  "Relax a little.  You've been wound tight since the weekend."  He massaged her shoulders.  "Other than last night, where you drank far more than I've ever seen.  Want to tell me what's going on?"

    "It's nothing, okay?  Just some stuff on my mind, nothing anyone else has to worry about."

    "Do we have to worry about you?"

    Numbers looked up at the mage.  "No."

    "I hope you don't mind if I do anyway."  Oswald pulled away and walked behind the prisoner.  "Treehugger, find anything yet?"

    From the office, the rigger called back, "Still looking!"

    Numbers took the commlink from the gunman's wrist.  "I"m going to see if there's anything in this."  The hacker stood up and went over to Treehugger's Westwind.  "TH, unlock your car?"

    "Coming!"  The rigger returned.  She tossed a packet over to Charles, who caught it easily.  "Which car?"

    Numbers patted the Westwind's roof.  "This one.  It's comfortable."

    Treehugger sent her access code to the black sports car.  The door opened up, allowing Numbers inside.  "Don't break anything."

    "Relax."  The hacker swung her legs inside the car.  "Ping me on my private 'link if anything happens."

    "No problem," Charles said.  He tore open the package and placed a stim patch on the gunman's neck.  The prisoner moaned, stirred.  His eyes opened.  "Good morning," Charles said.  "Welcome back.  Don't bother testing the rope."

    The gunman twisted in the chair.  The rope held him fast.  "You can't hold me here."

    Oswald leaned over the gunman's shoulder.  "Reality says differently."  He walked in front of the prisoner.  "Where I'm standing, you have three options.  First, you can just tell us everything we want to know.  Second, my big friend there," Oswald pointed to Charles, "can beat the data out of you."  The mage leaned into the gunman's face.  "Or, third, I just rip it out of your head myself."  Oswald straightened.  "I recommend the first option.  Less painful for you."

    "Fuck you."

    Charles grabbed the gunman's shoulder and squeezed.  "Let me add a few data points for you.  DeClerry's has certain people watching out for it.  They don't like it when one of their favourite joints gets shot up by a dumbass looking for a cheap thrill.  They'll want to make an example out of said dumbass.  Your body will be found.  I hope you don't have any close family, though."

    "Of course, if they know who gave the order, they might be more inclined to let you live," Oswald added.  "Provided that you're very forthcoming about details."

    The gunman spat at Oswald's foot.  "Like you're with the Mafia."

    "You have no idea who we know."

    Charles kept the pressure on the gunman's shoulder.  "They can be generous to those who help them.  Favours, that sort of thing."

    "We just need a name."

    The gunman grunted with pain as the troll's fingers bore harder.  "What's in it for me?"

    "Charles."  Oswald glanced at the troll's hand.  Charles released his grip.  "For you?  You get to keep living.  Impress us enough and we'll be able to get you out of your mess completely.  It's obvious that you're not the brains of the operation.  We just need who ordered you to make the hit and who your target was."

    "Fuck you."

    "Son of a bitch!"  Numbers hurled the gunman's commlink to the concrete floor.  She clambered out of the Westwind.

    "Easy," Treehugger said.  "Stay frosty, Numbers."

    The hacker stormed over to the prisoner.  "Who the fuck sent you?"  Numbers gave the gunman a second of not answering before backhanding him across the face.  "Who sent you?"

    Oswald grabbed the hacker's upraised arm.  "What are you doing?"  He pulled the woman away.  "Numbers, what did you find?"

    Numbers took several deep breaths before answering.  "His commlink has a firewall that the hardware and OS shouldn't be able support and no personal data on it at all.  No customization, no apps, no email, no contacts.  There's nothing on his 'link beyond what he needs to support his smartlink."

    "Wait, you couldn't hack his weapon," Charles said.

    "I can't hack what isn't there."  Numbers glared at the gunman.  "He's set so a hacker can't trace him through his gear."  She stomped back to the prisoner.  "Who sent you?"  Her Scout fell into her hand.  Numbers raised it, aimed it at his knee.  "Who the fuck sent you?"

    "Shit!"  Treehugger ran behind the Commodore as she drew her Predator.  "Incoming!"

    Charles pulled his revolver from its holster as the warehouse's loading door blew open.  Several men, all in black, stormed through the destroyed entrance, assault rifles out.  Behind them, a blond man in an expensive tailored burgundy suit maintained a steady pace, pistol in hand.  He barked several orders in German.  Switching to English, he said, "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I trust there won't be any problems?"

    Numbers lost all the colour in her face.  She took several steps away from the prisoner.  Her gun arm fell; the pistol pointed at the floor.  Charles aimed his Deputy at the prisoner's head.  "No, no problems."

    "You're going to kill him?"  The blond man aimed his pistol at the prisoner.  A red dot appeared on the prisoner's head.  "You'd just be doing me a favour, really."  The pistol coughed.  The red dot fell away, replaced by blood and gore.  "I do hate incompetence."  The blond man walked forward.  "I just need one person.  The rest of you can leave."

    Oswald stepped forward.  "Who?"

    "One Miss Christa Page."

    "Who?" Treehugger asked.

    "Me."  Numbers dropped her pistol.  "He wants me.  He's been looking for me."

    Oswald looked from Numbers to the troopers' commander and back.  "I think I'm lost."

    "Would you like to explain, Miss Page?" the blond man asked.  "Or shall I?"

    "I will."  Numbers let her head drop.  "Herr Friedrich Wulfe here is with Saeder-Krupp.  His job is to plug leaks."

    Charles nodded.  "A troubleshooter."

    Wulfe held up a hand to correct the troll.  "A loyalty officer."

    "Loyalty enforcement officer," Numbers said.  "He was assigned to me several years ago."

    "Before you came into the shadows," Treehugger finished.  "That kind of explains how well you know how to get around in a corporate office."

    Wulfe walked in front of his men.  "Miss Page was an accountant for a Saeder-Krupp subsidiary.  Her office was broken into, data was lost to people such as yourselves.  Security believed there was a person on the inside who helped these runners.  Naturally, my services were required.  I interviewed--"

    "Interrogated."  Numbers looked up at Wulfe.  "Interviews seldom involve drugs and involuntary simsense."

    "Interrogated," Wulfe nodded to Numbers, "the surviving office staff.  Miss Page was hiding something during the questioning, so she became a personal project of mine.  Imagine my surprise when she disappeared from the safety of the corporate campus.  It took me several years to track her this far.  I must applaud you, Miss Page, for eluding biometric evidence.  Fibre-optic hair so I couldn't trace hair colouring purchases.  I am curious on how you managed to change your figure.  That much plastic surgery must become a pain."

    "Sorry.  That will have to remain a secret."

    "No matter.  A full physical work up will be done before any further interrogation begins."

    "You're not taking her."  Charles aimed his revolver at Wulfe's head.

    Wulfe levelled a disappointing look at the troll.  "You would fight for this woman?  Miss Page, my records didn't show any sexual entanglements."

    "For a loyalty enforcement officer, you really don't get what being loyal is."  Oswald stood beside Numbers.  "She's with us."

    "Very well."  Wulfe walked out of the line of fire.  "Dead, alive, Miss Page is coming back with me."  He signaled his men.  They raised their assault rifles.  The sound of rounds chambering echoed through the warehouse.

    "No!"  Numbers walked into the middle of the warehouse.  "No.  Guys, no, I can't let you die like this.  Not over something that's my problem, not yours."

    "Fuck that noise, Numbers."  Treehugger sent signals to both the Westwind and the Commodore.  Both cars engines came to life.  "We're not leaving you to that bastard."

    "I said no, TH.  I have to stop running away from my problem."

    Wulfe smiled.  "Listen to the lady.  She has gained wisdom in her time away from Saeder-Krupp."

    "Fuck you, omae," Treehugger spat.

    "Be that way.  Sie zielen."

    From outside, a woman's voice called, "Legen sie ihre waffen!"  The Saeder-Krupp representative strode into the warehouse.  "Sagte ich, setzen sie ihre waffen!"

    The troops inside lowered their assault rifles.  Wulfe spun on his heel.  "Was ist das?"

    "Herr Wulfe, vielen dank für das finden der Federated-Boeing-Team. Ihre dienste sind heute abend nicht mehr benötigt."

    Treehugger looked over to the rest of her team.  "I need some closed captioning here."

    Numbers listened to the exchange as it got heated.  "He found me, he's no longer needed.  He wants to take me back to, fuck, Berlin.  The break-in is still on the books as unsolved."  The hacker cocked her head.  "She's saying she's in charge of the immediate mission, which has priority over his investigation.  He's going to take it up with his manager."  The hacker smiled as Wulfe stormed out of the warehouse.  "And various obscenities."  Relief flooded through her.

    The representative walked on high heels over the concrete floor to face the shadowrunning team.  "My apologies.  I hadn't realized that there were other issues outstanding."

    Oswald signalled the rest of the team to put away their guns.  "It did get tense for a moment.  Can we help you?"

    "I believe we can help each other."  The woman smiled.  "Please, call me Fraulein Johnson."

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