Brigham Plaza – The Lost Epilogue
WARNING: This epilogue contains spoilers for both Brigham Plaza and Vise Manor. For maximum enjoyment and comfort, please ensure you have read both of those books before continuing.
The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Parker.
An hour ago, he had driven up the mountain with the kind of confidence only afforded to the maverick men of Vinestead International. He had multiple SUVs full of synthetic soldiers running the most advanced pseudo-AIs Vinestead had ever produced. The job had been a simple one: grab Danny Guns Montreal, throw him in the back of one of the SUVs, and take him back to HQ.
Only now, it was Parker in the backseat of the Land Rover as it descended the mountain. It was Parker who sat between two burly synthetics, their sleeves and pants still wet from standing in the fallen snow just minutes before. And when Parker got back to HQ, he would no longer be viewed as a maverick, but instead as a traitor.
Parker leaned his head back on the leather seat and stared at the moon roof. The shade was back; snowflakes landed and turned into streaks of water.
He’d underestimated Montreal from the very start. Not only had the hacker found Brigham Plaza, he’d actually discovered its secrets. That alone would have been enough to put out a kill order, but then Montreal took it a step further. He kept digging, and in doing so, released a dangerous animal Parker had spent years trying to chain up. Now the animal was in the open, and the blame lay squarely on Parker’s shoulders.
“Did you guys know he had private security?”
None of the synthetics around Parker responded. They all seemed to be in standby states and probably wouldn’t move unless he did something stupid like try to grab their gun.
“I mean, that’s probably something that should have shown up on a recon scan, am I right? Because otherwise, we’re just walking in there blind.”
Again, no response, and Parker decided to let it go. None of it mattered. He’d wanted Montreal as a peace offering for bosses that were going to be royally pissed when they found out what happened. Parker guessed that moment had come shortly after he’d stepped out of the car to confront Montreal. It was possible the soldiers would have engaged the security forces in the trees, trading bullets until only one side was left standing.
It was pointless to imagine what might have been. There were certain truths in his life now that had to be faced. First and foremost was that Lassiter, an AI who had spent most of its existence going insane in solitary confinement, was now in the wind, as lost as a single ball bearing thrown into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Second, the hacker who was responsible for opening the cage, the ridiculously named Danny Guns Montreal, was now fully aware he was a target. Even if Vinestead decided to pursue him, and Parker hoped they would, the element of surprise was lost. Montreal would likely follow Lassiter into the woods.
Third, last, and most disappointing, was the fact that Vinestead International had turned its disapproving eye on its favorite son, Julius Parker. The hand that had given him everything—money, equipment, power—had suddenly turned into a fist. Riding in the back of the Land Rover was like waiting for that fist to land on the right side of his jaw. The hit was coming, and yet, he wasn’t as afraid as he thought he would be.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that Parker had always believed the Vinestead behemoth would eventually turn on him. More than believed in it, he’d planned for it. He’d taken precautions and made arrangements, so much so that he’d started to almost look forward to being betrayed by his company just so he could pull the plug and start over fresh somewhere else. He’d worked for Vinestead for more than twenty years, and though they were unmatched in resources and money, he’d spent those years amassing his own private fund and caches—not enough to build a company to rival Vinestead, but certainly enough to allow him to continuing pursuing his own interests.
Now it seemed that moment had finally come. There was no coming back from the exposure of Brigham Plaza. Beyond Lassiter, Montreal had exposed so many secrets, so many lies Vinestead had been telling for years. It was going to cost them a lot of money to fix things, and Parker had hoped he could offer up Montreal’s lifeless body as payment. With that ship sailed, there was only one person left to offer up their pound of flesh.
Parker bristled under the certainty of it all. Moments like these, the points of no return, were the worst. He’d had a few in his life, but while they changed things, they always led to something else. He didn’t see a way he came out of this alive, not if he allowed himself to be taken back to HQ. There would be no Folsom, no ReTreading—just death, easy and simple and no loose ends.
He laughed to himself. There weren’t supposed to be any loose ends when he had Johnny San Vito killed. Parker had thought it was just some hacker poking his nose where it didn’t belong. Hire some mercs. Direct them to the target. Done.
If Parker had researched San Vito at all, which he had, but only after everything started going to hell, he would have discovered the hacker was part of a group calling itself the Reinhardt Triumvirate. There were only three members: San Vito was one, Danny Guns Montreal was the other, and the third was Megan Riley, who called herself Tanzy. She was the leader of low-level cipher den in Portland known as I.C.E-1. Parker hadn’t seen her in VNet or Brigham Plaza, but he knew she was involved somewhere, especially after she exposed a Vinestead drone trying to shoot her plane down over Folsom Prison.
Her actions were enough to gain her entry onto Parker’s shit list. That said, it was a pretty long shit list, and every name except Montreal’s was lightly shaded in a tiny font size. The prospect of revenge sparked like a small length of fuse, but when it reached what should have been a thick rod of TNT, nothing happened.
Parker simply felt empty. There was anger, yes, but there was also futility. An eye for an eye. A hacker’s life for a hacker’s life. What was the point of it all?
How did it go?
The voice in the MESH graded up from nothing, as if the speaker had started talking before pulling a microphone to their mouth.
“Not great,” Parker replied, thinking the words clearly in his head, which was enough to send them hurtling out through the MESH. “You’re gonna want to fix the chairs because the tables have turned.”
Sometimes I think you say things like that just to see what I’ll allow.
I don’t allow it. Tell me what happened. I see you’re already back on the highway headed towards Denver. Is Montreal with you?
“No, Mr. Montreal was disinclined to accept my invitation. And when I asked my men to intervene, they took me into custody instead. So you see, where previously I was sitting on one side of the table, I am now sitting on the other.”
The MESH grumbled. I saw some chatter earlier. Your team received an update and I didn’t think to decode it. That’s my bad.
“It’s big of you to accept full responsibility.”
My magnanimity is literally infinite.
“So how are you going to make this up to me? Outside of a formal apology, of course.” Parker glanced at the frosted windows; the mountains near the road were still big enough to blot out the rest of the world. “I’m pretty sure I’m fucked if we get all the way back to Denver. Probably another team there waiting for us.”
I’m sure it won’t come to that.
“That’s easy to say when you’re not the one sitting in the car with these guys. I hate to admit I hardly looked at them before when they were backing me up.”
How many in the car with you?
“Four. One to each side, plus the passenger and driver.”
How about the other vehicles?
Parker squinted to see through the snow blowing over the windshield. Somewhere beyond the hood, he could see the vague red taillights of the lead SUV. The other was behind them; a quick glance over his shoulder confirmed it.
“Fore and aft. Five each.”
You took fifteen synthetics to snatch one guy?
“Better to have it and not need it than the other way around.”
A sigh blew through the MESH like a soft breeze. Typical Vinestead overspending. Probably 65 million dollars in synthetics to convince one little hacker to get in the car. You could have done the same with a pistol. $400 at Academy.
“You’re welcome to try next time.”
I’m better at a distance. My last girlfriend told me so. Hey, can you ask the driver to pull over? Tell him you have to piss.
Parker cleared his throat and said aloud, “Hey, I know you guys are in the middle of a mutiny here, but do you think you could pull over for a minute so I can piss? I don’t know about you guys, but my back teeth are floating.”
The driver glanced at the rearview mirror. “No.”
The SUV was silent for a moment.
“Sir,” said Parker.
“No, sir. Or did you forget who you’re talking to, synthetic?”
“I don’t answer questions from prisoners. Now shut your mouth before we gag you.”
Parker huffed, said into the MESH, “They’re going to gag me.”
I thought you only let me do that.
“At any rate, they’re not going to pull over. I guess I could fake getting sick or something, but I don’t think a little vomit is gonna scare these guys.”
Don’t worry about it. We’ll do this in stages. Why don’t you go ahead and threaten the driver?
I don’t know. Hit him with some gangsta shit.
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot.” Parker made a show of clearing his throat again. “Pardon me, driver. I kindly ask that you reconsider pulling over. Or else.”
“Or else what?”
“Or else the consequences will be dire.”
The driver probably would have laughed if he’d had the capability. Instead, he simply muttered, “Consequences. Noted.”
“Dire consequences,” said Parker.
“Dire consequences. Noted.”
Parker turned his attention back to the MESH. “Gangsta shit payload delivered.”
Alright, I’m almost ready.
“Last chance to pull over guys, or else I’m gonna pee all over all of you. First you, then you, and then you.” He pointed to the synthetics next to him and in the passenger seat. Then he looked at the driver. “You I’ll save for last.”
“Gag him,” said the driver.
“Oh I wouldn’t do that. I have a latex allergy and you haven’t even bought me dinner yet.”
The synthetic to Parker’s left reached for something on his belt and then suddenly slumped in his seat.
Parker looked to the synthetic on his right. “Funny, they usually don’t fall asleep until after.” He watched as the synny’s eyes went dark and his head fell forward.
The passenger went limp immediately after, but Parker hardly noticed. Instead, he watched the red blur in front of the SUV start to drift to the right. It clipped the edge of the highway and veered off the road. Looking behind him, he saw the trailing SUV sliding into the guardrail separating the two sides of traffic. It slowed and receded.
Parker leaned forward in his seat, his hands still folded in his lap. He spoke in a low voice to the driver.
“I know you don’t fear death, so I won’t bother threatening you. I’m going to shut you down. I know you know that. The only question is when. Do I do it now? When we’re traveling 75 miles an hour? Or do I do it once you’ve pulled over? It’s really up to you. Though, I would suggest you consider what will happen when they turn you back on. I’m sure they’re going to have lots of questions. Do you really want one of them to be why you killed me in a completely avoidable car accident?”
The driver thought about it, or processed it, or whatever synthetics did when they thought things over.
“I estimate a 76% chance they would rather have you dead than free. You’ll get no cooperation from me.” The driver pressed harder on the gas, and the SUV lurched forward.
“Shut him down,” said Parker.
The driver went limp, but his foot stayed engaged on the throttle.
Parker reached for his seatbelt, only to feel the car slowly decelerate. He watched the steering wheel turn slowly, pulling the driver’s hands to the right, as the SUV drifted onto the shoulder. It came to a stop, and the parking brake lights popped up on the console.
Time to get out.
“Out? I’m not taking this car?”
No. If I can track it, they can track it. The GPS system is a closed environment. I can’t touch it. You’re gonna have to walk.
Parker looked at the heavy snow falling outside the windows.
“I’m gonna freeze to death.”
Then stay put. I’m sure whatever death Vinestead has devised for you will be much quicker.
“Fuck,” said Parker, leaning over the limp synthetic to pull the door handle. He slid across thick legs and hopped out into the deep snow. With a few curses to help his movement, he made it around the SUV and back to the road.
He looked left and right. The snow blotted out any features.
“Which way?” he asked.
There’s a car coming up behind you in twenty-six minutes. Head east.
“Is that… my right?”
Yes. If you’re having trouble distinguishing your left from right, I can suggest a few helpful tricks.
Parker said nothing, turned to the right, and zipped up his jacket. His shoes crunched on the icy shoulder as he walked the empty highway.
Hey, look at you. Got it on the first try.
“You know, we have a saying where I come from about kicking a man when he’s down.”
Yeah, and what’s that?
“Fuck you, X.”
Julius Parker first appeared in Xronixle as Jape, one of X’s hacker friends in the Net. How their relationship evolved from then (1999) to Brigham Plaza (2019), remains a mystery.