Sunday, August 3, 2008


October 31, 2028

The next two months were eventful for Bridge and Angela. True to her word, she moved them in together that week, refusing to take no for an answer as she and Bridge abandoned their respective apartments in the middle of the night. A creative use of some of her best freelance credcrashers saw their leases dissolved, their belongings packed up as quietly as possible and shifted from apartment to storage space, where another application of the hacking arts caused those goods to disappear from recorded existence. It was an expensive move, as far as Bridge could tell, but Angela handled most of it and either footed the bill or had someone else pay for it. Bridge laid low for the week after the election, rescheduling as many of his appointments as he could. He lost a few jobs, but nothing he couldn’t replace once he felt a bit safer.

The election was a colossal slow-motion train wreck, of course. As Bridge had predicted, the Sunderland story took off. The first downloads happened within minutes of Bridge’s exit from Chronosoft headquarters, and by morning, it had over 100,000 views. The news networks, freed from their gag order by the underground release, swooped in on the story like ravenous vultures. An estimated 85% of all Los Angeles LGL eligible voters were said to have seen or heard about the recording from a news outlet or friend. Only hours after voting began, with exit polls showing Soto riding a burgeoning landslide, Freeman’s hacking misdirection became apparent. Voting machines began to malfunction, hiccup or otherwise show signs of irregularities and in a panic, the election commissioner tried to shut the voting booths down city-wide, beginning in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the riots. With resentment still simmering, the people reacted just as one would expect them to react when the un-elected, corporate-controlled government attempted to disenfranchise them. Riots were only narrowly avoided. While there were some injuries and property damage, the efficiency of CLED negotiators averted a repeat of the previous year’s violence. In the end, the election commissioner decided to let the vote go ahead as scheduled. By the time the polls had closed, the rout was obvious. Soto had won, but the media cast a shadow on the victory party by reporting on the voting machine irregularities and near-riots. Days were spent with the election commissioner on the hot seat, with both parties clamoring for certification, reporters requesting investigation and rumors flying. By the end of the week, the commissioner had resigned in disgrace and the election was certified by his successor, triggering disenfranchisement lawsuits and rendering Soto’s enormous victory tainted. Bridge never had so much fun watching the news feeds.

His reunion with Angela was not always as entertaining. There were many marathon-length talking sessions, heartfelt discussions about their feelings and shrieking arguments. Through it all, however, neither gave in and more importantly, neither gave up on the relationship. Something in the months they’d spent apart and in the crazy day they’d spent almost dying together had forged a stronger bond between the two. Angela still disliked the way he made his money. “You’re not an amoral bastard, you know,” she said at one point. “You just know how to push your few principles aside to deal with the scum of the earth. What I don’t get is how you can stand it.”

Finally, he’d explained it as best he could. “Look, I know these people are shit. I get the worst of the worst. I don’t get little old ladies who need me to get their pension back from the loan shark. I get the loan shark when he needs a new guy to break the little old lady’s legs. And I help him, and you know why I help him? Leave aside the fact that even if I refuse to help him, someone else will. That’s just a fact. I help him because I know that guy is going down a one-way road the wrong way. And eventually, some other dumb fucker is going to come down that road from the opposite direction. So I just run them both into each other so the sorry bastards can get themselves the fuck off my planet sooner.”

Angela laughed and shook her head. “Bullshit. That’s bullshit. You’re trying to rationalize the fact that you make money off of misery because you gotta eat. It’s not some kind of twisted service to the world.”

“Maybe. We all gotta eat. But I’d rather those guys eat each other than me.” And nothing more was said about it.

Gina Danton had gotten Aristotle off the charge, just as she had promised. With the mayor’s greatly reduced respectability in those first hours of election day, no one had given two shits that Aristotle had pulled his mischief at the man’s fundraiser, not when a cop of Danton’s reputation had been willing to vouch for the bodyguard. Amazingly, Aristotle never gave Bridge any grief over his arrest, instead making light of it as often as he could. Bridge still ended up buying the giant a fantastically bejeweled watch, making sure to show it off to Angela before giving the gift.

Nicky took care of himself. Bridge had set up the bust with Danton, of course, and Bridge spent a few good hours worrying that the Cajun mobster would evade capture and come directly after Bridge. Nicky, never the sharpest tool in the shed, decided instead to go out Tony Montana style, trying to shoot his way out of the dragnet. He did manage to wound one cop before getting perforated. Thinking back on it, Bridge felt no remorse for his part in the gangster’s death. Nicky was too stupid to live, too selfish to remove himself from the gene pool and too worthless to feel any guilt over. Nicky’s guys drifted from one boss to another, like all hard guys do. None of them had the talent or brains to make much of themselves beyond hired muscle.

Paulie was a problem, of course. Soon after Bridge started working again, Paulie became a regular fixture at all the spots where Bridge plied his trade. Bridge would be finishing up work with a client when he’d spy the ex-footballer standing at the bar, eyes burning holes through him. Paulie would spot Bridge, Bridge would spot Paulie and the heavy would raise his new cybernetic hand in a sarcastic salute. Before leaving, Paulie would point the cyberhand at Bridge and make the sign of a pistol with his thumb and first two fingers, then exit with that same predatory smile of his. Short of hiring someone to whack the footballer, Bridge really hadn’t come up with a good way to deal with that grudge, but he still had a month to go.

A month was a long time. Hell, Bridge could get hit by a bus in that month. He could get abducted by aliens, or blown up along with half a city. Some punk ass disgruntled client could come back and stick a vibroknife in his back. He’d figure something out when the time came. That was what he did best. He figured things out. He’d figured out the Sunderland mess, and stuck it to “the man” in the process. Paulie wasn’t nearly as smart as Thames. And if he couldn’t figure something out, well, he knew a guy that could.

No comments:


Chapters (17) Cyberpunk (26) GlobalPedia (10) Interviews (3) KCChapters (54) Meatpunk (4) News (76) Reviews (15) Tales (10)