8 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 19

Break and Extract

(Mild language warning in effect)
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Friday, April 23, 2071
2107 hours

    Numbers watched the crowd as it it milled around the Murdered Mime.  Anarchy's Cheerleaders, an up and coming band, wailed on the stage, drowning out conversation.  As she nursed her glass of wine, she flipped through the messages popping up on her AR contacts.  She ignored the ads for the brands of alcohol sold at the nightclub, sent teasing messages back to the people propositioning her, and shot down several blatant attempts at getting into her panties.  Her software agent flashed a green light in the lower corner of her vision; her mark had arrived.  Numbers scanned the entrance.  The Evo employee she waited for walked in, alone.

    The hacker let her mark settle in at the bar.  Numbers observed him as he ordered a drink, then sat back to watch the sights.  She sent a quick message to Oswald, asking if he noticed any preferences the mark had.  After a few minutes, she received an answer.  Numbers sat back in the dim lighting and set her hair to begin a slow change from light brunette to a dark rust.

    The mark approached a woman with bright red hair.  Numbers waited to see the results.  The mark talked to the woman, chatting her up.  The woman seemed receptive, then she waved to a group walking in.  She tapped her commlink.  Numbers smiled.  The hacker gave the Evo employee a few minutes to settle back in his chair before getting up.

    Numbers strode with purpose, letting her hips sway with every step.  She flicked a strand of her now rust red hair behind her shoulder as she approached.  "Hello," she said, trying to keep her voice sultry.  She flashed her contact details to his commlink.  "Alone?"  Numbers sat on the bar stool beside her mark.

    "That depends."

    "Depends on what?"  Numbers read over the data the Evo employee sent back.  "Joss?"  Joss Tillman, according to what the mark sent.  Numbers saved the information on her commlink.

    Tillman flashed a smile.  "On whether you stay here with me.  Care for a drink, Kimberly?"

    "Please, call me Kim, and yes, please.  White wine."

    Tillman sent the order through the bar's AR network.  "So, Kim, I don't think I've seen you here before."

    "That's because it's my first time here.  I just needed to get away from my usual spot.  Just too many people from work there."  Numbers shook her head.  "Sorry.  I didn't meant to burden you with my rotten week at work."

    "That's why we're here, right?  To forget about work and unwind."  Tillman handed Numbers her wine then picked up his whiskey.  "To forgetting work."  He raised his glass.

    Numbers raised her, clinking it on Tillman's.  "To forgetting."  She sipped her wine.  "So, um, come here often?"  She gave a nervous titter.

    "Often enough.  I should see if I can buy into the place to get some of my booze money back."  Tillman laughed.  "Where's your usual place?"

    "Sybrespace.  You know, downtown?  Like I said, too many co-workers there and I wanted to be in a place that's real.  After a long week plugged in, I just want to let loose!"  Numbers flung her hair up and let it fall back down.

    "You know what helps?"  Tillman finished his drink.  "Dancing.  No, really."  He held out his hand to Numbers.

    "I don't . . . oh, what the hell."  Numbers set down her wine and took his hand.  "Let's go!"

    Anarchy's Cheerleaders kept a good beat going for several minutes.  Numbers finally had to claim fatigue to return to a table.  She sent an order for another round of drinks to the bar as she and Tillman settled in.  Numbers wiped perspiration off her brow.  "I haven't danced like that in ages."

    "Didn't I tell you?"  Tillman took a deep breath.  "So, Kim, where do you work?"

    Numbers leaned in close.  "Aztechnology.  Shh.  I'm not really supposed to be out this far from the Pyramid.   Security gets really antsy at time."

    "Aztech?  No shit?  Damn, you really are far from home here."

    A waiter arrived to pass out the ordered drink.  Numbers took care of the payment, adding a small tip.  She returned her attention to Tillman.  "Yeah.  Makes it hard to bring anyone home."  The hacker glanced over at the band.  "Can we go somewhere more intimate?  It feels weird yelling at you."

    "I know a place just down the block.  Much quieter."  Tillman downed his whiskey then stood up.  He offered Numbers his arm.  "Shall we?"

    Numbers wrapped her arm around his.  "We shall!"  She let Tillman lead her through the crowd, adding a few stumbles to add to her slightly tipsy act.

    Once outside, Numbers received a message from Charles on her commlink letting her know he saw her.  She glanced over to Treehugger's Bulldog.  The rigger flashed the van's headlights twice.  Numbers hung tight on Tillman's arm.  "So where is this intimate place, Joss?"  She placed her head on his shoulder.

    "It's a surprise."  He kissed the hacker's forehead.  "You'll love it."

    "I bet I will."  Numbers read a message from Oswald asking her to slow down.  She stumbled in her high heels, almost pulling Tillman down with her.  "Sorry.  I must have had more wine than I thought."  She giggled.

    Tillman helped Numbers regain her standing.  "It's Friday.  If we can't overindulge--"  Tillman fell to his knees, keeled over.  Numbers had to grab him before his head hit the sidewalk.

    Oswald walked out of the shadow of a nearby alley.  "Thanks for waiting."

    "The guy's a player," Numbers said.  "Get his commlink."

    "Yeah, yeah, I know the drill."  The mage removed the device from Tillman's wrist.  He waved to Treehugger.  "What do you want to do with this guy?"

    "Out of my arms."  Numbers shifted the Evo employee's weight, grunting with the effort.  "A coffin hotel.  Saeder-Krupp's paying for it."

    "I think there's one a few block's down."

    Treehugger pulled the van up beside the group.  "Got everything?"

    "Pop the back door," Oswald said.  "We have a delivery to make."

    Numbers dragged the unconscious mark into the back of the Bulldog.  Oswald helped get Tillman's leg inside.  Once in, Oswald directed the rigger to to a cubicle hotel, one of the Rent & Rest chain.  Numbers and the mage each grabbed one of the Evo employee's arms and dragged him out of the step-van and into the hotel.  Numbers laughed as she swayed on her feet.  Oswald shot her a look but kept helping her bring Tillman to the front desk.  "Hi!" Numbers said.

    The clerk looked up at the newcomers from his AR display.  "Hello, how may I help you?"

    "My friend here partied out too soon," Numbers said.  "He needs a place to stay."

    "I see."  The clerk looked down his nose at Tillman.  "Payment's in advance."

    "Not a problem.  Do you have a corporate rate?"

    "Not here, no."

    Numbers transferred the nuyen to the hotel's account.  "I have a message to pass on to him when he wakes up."

    "I'll probably be off-shift then."

    "Really?"  Numbers pouted.  "Will this help?"  She sent a hundred nuyen over to the clerk's commlink.

    The clerk's eyes widened in surprise.  "I'll find a way.  What's the message?"

    "Tell him that Kimberly had a really good time with him."  The hacker winked.  "Don't forget the wink."  Numbers waved to the clerk.  "Thanks!"  She wrapped her arm around Oswald's waist.  "Let's go, Ron.  There's still parties to crash."

    Outside, Numbers kept up the act until she jumped into the step-van.  Oswald climbed in after her.  "Ron?"

    "I could have called you Reinhold and the clerk wouldn't have noticed.  Give me the commlink."

    "Here."  Oswald passed Tillman's 'link to the hacker.  "It was risky leaving the message."

    "Mr. Tillman will put the blame on a low-level Aztech employee named Kim.  That gives us a little more time to fade away.  Besides, by the time he wakes up, we will have delivered the target to Fraulein Johnson and won't have to be around here anytime soon."


2316 hours

    Numbers and Oswald spilled out of a taxi in front of Evo's main compound.  They stumbled to the guardhouse, laughing loudly.  A guard stepped out of the booth.  "Identification, please," he said.

    Oswald transmitted his new ID to the guard.  He waited for the guard to run the verification, swaying on his feet.  Numbers tugged on his arm, building her voice up to a whine.  "How much longer?" she asked.  She tousled the mage's hair.  "I thought you said we could go to your place."  The hacker blew into Oswald's ear.

    The guard cleared his throat.  "I just need to see your friend's ID."

    Numbers pouted.  "You said this wouldn't take long."

    Oswald kissed his teammate's forehead.  "Just give the nice man your ID code, Kim.  I have a bottle of wine waiting for us in my apartment."

    "Fine."  Numbers sent her identification records to the guard.  She stood on her tiptoes to kiss Oswald on the lips.

    "How long will Miss Lawson be staying."

    "Overnight."  Oswald gave a giggling Numbers a pat on her ass.  She slapped at his hand.

    "I see."  The guard handed Numbers a pad.  "Sign there, please."  Numbers signed Kimberly's name in the register, using large loops and dotting her 'i' with a heart.  She handed the pad back to the guard.  He stepped aside.  The gate swung up, letting Oswald and Numbers through.

    The runners kept up the act until they got into Tillman's apartment.  Once the door closed, Numbers ran over to the window to close the curtain.  Oswald assensed the apartment.  "Clear," he announced.  "You were convincing out there.  I think I need a cold shower."

    Numbers opened her purse and tossed a bundle of clothes to the mage.  "Here.  Don't forget to strew the clothes on the floor."

    "I do know what a wild night looks like."  Oswald pulled his shirt off.

    "Promises, promises."  Numbers disappeared into the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

    Oswald finished changing, putting on a set of grey coveralls over a white t-shirt.  He was in the middle of putting on a pair for running shoes when Numbers returned wearing a similar outfit.  She tossed her skirt on the floor near the door.  "How the hell do you manage to keep a sense of self?" Oswald said as he noticed his teammate's now flat chest.

    "I get to be me at home.  Give me your pants."

    Oswald smirked.  "I get that all the time from the ladies."

    Numbers rolled her eyes.  "The ones in your hand.  I need to toss them in the bedroom."

    "I'll do it."  Oswald walked to the bedroom door and tossed his pants inside.  "Your bra's in the wrong spot."


    Oswald stepped into the bedroom.  "You dropped it beside the bed.  This is a drunken revelry."  The mage picked up the brassiere and flung it aside.  "Clothes are going everywhere."

    "Excuse me for not having drunk sex since college."

    Oswald finished placing his clothes around the bedroom.  "You're not missing much.  Don't forget the wine."

    "On it."  Numbers opened a bottle of wine from Tillman's liquor cabinet.  She filled two glasses about a third each, then dumped half of the remaining liquid into the kitchen sink.  "Anything else?"

    "Make sure we have everything incriminating, then let's get out of here."

    "Let me look for Ms Evo first.  Much easy now that we're inside."  Numbers sat down at Tillman's terminal.  She broke through his password and started searching the Evo public database.  It took the hacker a few minutes to find the Evo representative's address.  She downloaded it and directions to the address.  "Got it."

    The runners left Tillman's apartment.  Numbers guided Oswald as they crept through the residential hallways.  In the rare time inhabitants walked passed them, the runners acted like a maintenance crew.  After climbing up several floors, Numbers and Oswald reached the address.  Numbers took up a position to watch for people coming towards them.  Oswald took out his automatic lockpicker.  The mage knelt down and went to work on the lock.  After a few minutes, the door clicked open.  Oswald nodded to Numbers.

    The mage took the lead as they entered the apartment.  They left the lights off, relying on their optical aids to avoid furniture and other obstructions.  The door to the apartment's bedroom was ajar.  The runners split up to press up against the wall on either side of the door.  "Oh, do come in," a woman's voice called.  "I hate waiting and maintenance here takes its damn sweet time fixing shit here as it is."

    Numbers entered the bedroom first.  The dwarf woman sat in her bed aiming a Colt M23 at the door.  "Expecting us?"

    "Ever since the girl's mother called her fixer."  The dwarf motioned with her gun.  "Beside each other.  I want to see both of you."

    Oswald slipped around Numbers to stand beside her.  "Do you know why we're here?"

    "Not really.  Don't care, either.  On your knees, hands over your heads."

    "Not even the tiny bit curious?"  Numbers knelt on the plush rug.  "After all, we are shadowrunners.  We're open to the highest bid."

    The dwarf turned her attention to the hacker.  "Interrogation works just as well and costs less."

    "Provided what we know isn't time sensitive," Numbers countered.  "Are you willing to take that chance?"

    The barrel of the Colt assault rifle swung over to cover Numbers.  "How time sensitive?"

    "Data has a price," Numbers said.

    "I only need one of you.  The other is expendable."  The dwarf glanced at Oswald.  "And your friend looks like she's more likely to tell me everything."

    "Are you sure of that?"  Numbers laughed.  "You're just taking my word for everything."

    The dwarf raised the M23 to sight down its barrel.  "Then you have a choice.  Talk, or I kill you."

    Oswald released his stunbolt.  The dwarf slumped over on her side.  "No, I'll take the third option."

    Numbers stood back up.  "About time.  I don't think I could have distracted her any longer."

    "Get the tranq patch on her.  I'll check the door."  Oswald ran out of the room.

    Numbers pulled out a slap patch from her bag.  She applied it to the dwarf's arm.  "Anything, Oz?" the hacker called.

    "Clear.  Get her ready."

    Numbers stripped the Evo representative out of her clothes and into a cheap jumpsuit.  The hacker arranged the clothes on the bed as if the dwarf was still lying in it.  "Oz, I could use your help now."

    The mage returned to the bed room.  "We need to get moving," he said.

    "Help me pack her."  Numbers brought out a collapsible bag from her purse.  She expanded it and laid it out beside the bed.  "Get her head."  With effort, the two runners placed the dwarf into the bag.  Numbers put her purse in as well before zipping the bag shut.  "Ready?"

    A knock came from the door.  "Ms Anders?" a man's voice called.  "Ms Anders, are you there?"

    "We're going to have to take it slow," Oswald said.  "I'll be sustaining three spells.  I'm not going to be much use beyond lugging her."  He took a deep breath.  "Grab the bag."

    "Ms Anders!"  The knocking grew louder, harsher.

    Oswald cast his first spell.  The bag holding the Evo representative faded from sight, making it appear that Numbers held thin air in her hands.  The knocking stopped.  The doorknob rattled.  Oswald slowly exhaled as he released his second spell.  Numbers disappeared from view.  A loud thud came from the front, followed by a second.  Oswald steadied himself, then cast his third spell.  He vanished as the front door splintered open.  Three guards, armed with submachineguns, ran into the bedroom.  "Shit!  She's gone."

    "She can't have gone far," a second guard said.  "We didn't pass anyone on our way up.  Kowalski, check the north stairs.  Pedersen, check the east.  I'll take the south.  Go!"  The guards ran out of the apartment.

    The runners waited, not daring even to breathe for several minutes.  "Think they're gone?" Numbers asked in a soft tone.


    "The system's on a passive alert.  We're not going to be able to use the elevators."

    "Let me get my end then we'll take it nice and slow through the halls.  Try not to trip over anything."

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