Varyk stepped over to one side, his smaller stature made it harder to find him in a crowd. He smiled as he noticed that Dagny was also at the retreat. “Hi, Wingnut. Think if we lose these packets they’ll let us skip out on the workshops?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea, Freckles,” she said.

“You know,” Henry said as he edged over to the side where the dwarves had settled. “I just noticed that there are seven dwarves.”

“Snow White you are not, Big Guy,” Varyk said to the older man.

“I am,” Conrad said. He handed everyone in the group their packets.

“I didn’t say that,” Varyk said, his cheeks flushing as he realized that his words could have been insulting, especially given that Conrad was an albino. “I just meant… personality… Snow White is sweet and innocent and the Big Guy here is neither of those things.”

“Of course,” Conrad said, his tone slightly sarcastic.

Varyk ducked his head and chuckled. “Yeah. Seven dwarves.” His eyes went round as he realized something. “Not Dopey,” he snapped at nearly the same time as the other six dwarves. A couple pointed over at Victor, who had been just a beat behind the others.

“I’m always Dopey,” he said.

“Yes you are, but we forgive you,” Conrad said with a smile.

“As long as you aren’t Gus, he gets killed,” one of the other dwarves said. “I’m Otto Bergmann, by the way. I’m an office assistant. I don’t know why they decided I needed stress management.”

“Greta Rothstein, personnel office,” a pretty dark-haired lady said with a smile. “I suppose that’s a bit stressful.”

Going around the circle to the left, the dwarf that Varyk had already greeted said, “I’m Dagny Goebel. I’m in Forensics with Leuthar Vogel.” She nodded toward a dwarf standing beside her. “Back to the topic at hand, Gus dies nobly, protecting Snow White.”

“He was the eighth dwarf,” Varyk pointed out. He smiled. “Varyk Tiefen, technical analyst.”

“You’re the one who’s actually an agent… so cool! And again, back to the topic, that’s what happens when you get one too many. Remember, the same thing happened to the sneaky one in that television show,” Leuthar said. “I know Dagny and Greta because she works in personnel and now I know the rest of you… except,” he pointed at the last dwarf and smiled.

“Barnabas Ehrlich,” he said. He looked around, frowning.

“We have a Barnaby,” Varyk said. He glanced at the other dwarves and grinned. “Remember that one?”

“It’s the only one where the dwarves have names and not strange designations,” Dagny said. “They all begin with the letter ‘B.’ I thought it was clever.”

Barnabas frowned and looked around. “I thought Anna would be here.”

Victor frowned and shook his head. “She e-mailed me and said that something had come up with her apartment.”

Varyk frowned. Anna would have been their eighth dwarf. He shook his head. There wasn’t really a curse on an eighth dwarf. That was just silly. He focused on the conversation that was still going around him

“You know in Mister Maggoo, they have real names, starting from the letter ‘A’ and going on through ‘G.’ It’s terribly corny though,” Otto said.

“It’s Mister Maggoo, you can’t watch it expecting good theater,” Varyk said.

“Do you all know every incarnation of Snow White?” Henry said. He sounded torn between shocked and frustrated.

“Self defense,” Varyk said. “Big Guy, that and the series of books by Tolkien are the first things that spring to mind when people see dwarves. We need to know the references people are making.”

“So we can figure out if we need to be offended or amused when they’re made,” Victor agreed.