5 Sep 2014

By the Numbers - Epilogue

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Wednesday, April 28, 2071
1158 hours

    James Middlemas strode into the luxurious executive office.  The administrative assistant got up as he approached.  "Mr. Graves is expecting me."  He gave the admin assistant an approving look-over.

    The assistant looked over her list of approved visitors.  "Mr. Graves is expecting you, sir."

    Middlemas didn't break his pace as he walked through the door to the inner office.  He pulled the door closed behind him and stopped in front of a large oak desk.  The man behind the desk did not look up at the disturbance.  "Sit down, Mr. Middlemas."

    The magician remained standing.  "I have just spent the past week getting skin grafts done.  My doctor told me I should remain in his clinic until the weekend.  Is there a reason why you summoned me out of the blue?"

    "I am well aware of where you were and what you were doing there."  Graves looked up from his paperwork.  "You will be paying for the 'nurses' out of your own pocket.  I don't believe erotic stimulation is a valid physical therapy for the injuries you suffered."

    Middlemas flushed.  "That's besides the point."

    "Mr. Middlemas, I do not have time to waste with you.  You have made two very severe errors.  First, you lost the girl.  The shadowrunner not only didn't sow discord and kill some of our hold outs, she got her child back."

    "I wasn't expecting a team of runners to retrieve her."

    "I pay you to expect the unexpected, Mr. Middlemas."  Graves steepled his fingers together.  "Instead, though, you come here with excuses for your shortcomings."

    "Mr. Graves, I assure you--"

    Graves slammed his hand on his table.  "I don't want your assurances, Mr. Middlemas.  Your incompetence has led to the loss of my cell at Evo."

    Middlemas began pacing in front of the desk.  "Blame the dwarf for that.  I had nothing to do with it."

    "Oh?  And who do you think she was traced through?"

    "I had nothing to do with her."

    "Imbecile!  She was the one who gave you the girl."

    Middlemas stopped.  "What happened to her?"

    "She was extracted Friday night by a team of shadowrunners.  My contacts haven't heard of anyone placing the job on their 'brag sheet' yet."

    "Coincidence."  Middlemas snorted.

    "Have you heard of a man named Kyle Brantford.  He was also known as K-Bob on the streets."

    Middlemas shook his head.  "Never heard of him.  Who is he?"

    "You mean, 'was'.  Knight Errant found him in Bellevue.  And Tacoma.  And Renton.  And Puyallup.  They're calling it a random act of street violence, related to the drug dealers infecting the city.  Do you know what I call it, Mr. Middlemas?"

    Dreading the answer, Middlemas said, "What?"

    "A warning.  A warning to our group, to me.  I am taking this very personally."

    "Did you know this K-Bob?"


    "Then why bother?"

    "Because he worked for the dwarf.  He provided the name of the runner to her.  He found the girl.  He was the link between me, the dwarf, you, and the runner and her daughter.  Someone got to him before I could.  Now do you understand what your first mistake has cost me?"

    "I can take care of the runner and her kid."

    "You will do no such thing.  There's still your second mistake to deal with."

    "Second mistake?" Middlemas asked.  "What second mistake?"

    Graves stood up.  "You came here at my request during lunch."  His form shifted, growing larger.  His features became reptilian.  A tail emerged as Graves fell to all fours.  His neck elongated.  Smoke flowed out of his nostrils.

    Middlemas backed away from the dragon taking up most of the space behind the desk.  In his head, he heard Graves's voice, now a deep basso, say, You forgot to ask what was on the menu.  The dragon opened its maw and lunged for the magician.


1942 hours

    Numbers walked through her apartment, making one last check to make sure she had everything.  Very little remained in her home; the appliances in the kitchen were the only items she hadn't bought over the years she lived there.  Charles appeared at the door.  "The van's loaded," he said.

    "Thanks."  Numbers joined the troll at the doorway.

    "You don't have to disappear, Numbers."

    "I do.  Wulfe tracked me down once.  He'll be back."

    "Sure, and that's a good reason to move.  But to ditch us?"

    "That bastard will do what he thinks necessary to get to me.  I'm not putting any of you at risk because of my past."  She closed the apartment's door and started to the elevator.  "It's not fair to any of you."

    Charles kept pace with the tiny hacker.  "Doc Jade could help, maybe change your appearance."

    Numbers laughed as she stabbed the elevator's call button.  "Change my appearance?  What is she going to do, turn me into an ork named Larry?"

    "Maybe not that extreme."

    "Charles, I have fake hair and fake boobs that I can change anytime I want.  Wulfe still saw through that.  I need to erase my existence and start over."  The elevator door opened.  Numbers stepped into the lift car.  "I need to disappear."

    Charles entered the elevator.  He hit the button for the ground floor.  "Keep in touch, Numbers.  I'm going to miss having you around."

    Numbers wrapped her arms around the troll.  "I'll miss you, too, Charles."

    The pair hugged each other until the doors opened on the ground floor.  Numbers released the troll.  "I'm sorry, Charles.  I wish it could be different."  She walked out of the elevator, out of the apartment building.

    Treehugger pushed herself away from her step-van.  "Everything's in."

    "Thanks, TH."  Numbers pulled the rigger into an embrace.  "Thanks for everything."

    "You do realize that I can trace you when I get the van back?"

    "You do realize that I'll be wiping the van's memory before I return it to you?"

    Treehugger released the hacker.  "Keep in touch, even if it's an anonymous email.  It won't be the same without you."

    Oswald walked out from behind the van.  "This isn't solving anything, Numbers."

    "It solves me not worrying about you in a month's time."  Numbers walked over to the mage.  "Oz, please.  This is hard enough."

    Oswald hugged Numbers.  "Christa, he's not going to stop gunning for you.  You're better off surrounded by friends."

    "My friends won't be.  Oz, I don't want to see any of you hurt."

    "Her mind's made up, Oz," Treehugger said.  "We should let her do what she thinks best.  Besides, she knows how to contact us."  The rigger opened the driver's door.  "You know how to use GridGuide, Numbers?"

    Numbers disengaged from Oswald.  "Yeah, I can figure it out."

    "Don't try anything fancy.  The Bulldog's a pig when it's fully loaded.  It won't respond as fast as you want or GridGuide thinks, so give yourself extra time."  The rigger spat on the ground.  "Call me once your done so I can bring the van home."

    Numbers climbed into the step-van.  "Thanks again, TH.  Next time I see you, think you'll have gotten the gene work done?"

    "Damn straight I am."

    Numbers slid the door shut.  She opened the window.  "Promise me you won't get yourselves killed."

    "You promise us that," Oswald said.  "Keep in touch.  Let us know how you're doing.  And don't do anything foolish without us.  We'd like the excitement."

    Numbers started the engine.  She let the city's GridGuide interface with the van's subsystems.  "Bye," she called.  Numbers placed the van into gear and drove away.


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