Paradigm Shift, Epilogue

Men worked at loading boxes into the back of an unmarked, white van. The activity took place late in the night, the lights of flood lamps illuminating their work. Two men watched the progress of the labor.

"Looks like we're almost done here," said the first, an aging, overweight man with a bald pate in a rumpled suit.

"Yes. You have been most accommodating, Mr. Finch," said the second, a younger, stockily built man with black hair slicked back, square features, and clear blue eyes. He wore a blue windbreaker.

"What do you want with all this anyways, Metzger?"

"That is not important to this transaction."

Finch smirked. "Guess it doesn't matter. This stuff was just going to rot in storage, anyways."

Metzger watched as the last box was loaded into the van. The word 'A.R.T.I.E.' was clearly visible before the van's doors were shut. "It is unfortunate Barbara Chamberlain's initiative was unsuccessful."

"Yeah. If she hadn't vanished, she might have put it back together. Oh well, Humpty Dumpty and all that you know what."

Metzger's head tilted. "No, I don't know what. You are sure that our transaction will remain private?"

Finch nodded several times. "Positive. They won't inventory it again for at least a year, if not longer. Only myself and my men here know this has happened. Now, as for payment, Mr. Metzger, I'll take that now."

"Yes, of course. Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Finch." Metzger reached into his windbreaker and pulled a pistol out.

Finch's expression turned to horror. "We had a --!" Multiple gunshots rang out, ending the lives of Richard Finch and his men.

Metzger slid his pistol back into his windbreaker, then strode to the driver's door of the van and pulled himself into the vehicle. He turned to a passenger that had been sitting in the vehicle. "All witnesses have been terminated."

"Excellent work. The mission is nearly complete." said the passenger with a smile. She patted a red backpack that lay in her lap, fingers lingering over it with seeming affection.

The van's engine rumbled to life as Metzger started it, then pulled it out onto a back street in downtown Los Angeles. He was silent and impassive as he drove the vehicle.

The gaze of Cameron Phillips went back down to the bag in her lap, expression showing apparent adoration. She made a soft, cooing sound. "Don't worry, baby. Mama will keep you safe from anyone who would harm you."