Monday, February 23, 2009

The Know Circuit: Chapter 3.0

November 2, 2028
02:07 a.m.

The crowd in the Tanz looked on the events playing out on the screen in stunned silence. People looked from one face to the other as in a shared dream state, experiencing the uneasy camaraderie of the traumatized herd too shocked to remember the natural distrust they should have of each other. The house lights had been turned on somewhere in the middle of the broadcast, and Bridge’s eyes ached. He’d been going pretty hard lately, a three-day stretch of lost sleep and constant footwork. His body still felt the effects of the hallucinogenic seizure he’d experienced, and the other jacked-in victims appeared equally drained.

Bridge jumped as his cell connection buzzed to a life, a tingly irritating vibration in the back of his skull that signaled an incoming call. "This is Bridge, go," he said by reflex.

"Was that you ghosting through Ars just a minute ago?" It was Bridge’s girlfriend, Angela. He could feel the barely-controlled panic in her voice. "I was cruising the taverns and I swear I saw you in the Blooded Falchion, but then I was in the Tanz with you. And what was that about Boulder?" Angela was one of the operators of the virtual world Ars-Perthnia, spending most of her time in that world dressed as the lich-queen Baroness Eletheia.

"Are you still jacked in?"

"Of course, there’s a tourney tonight."

"Check the news feeds, baby."

"Which one? CNN?"

"Any of them. All of them. It’s all over the place. Boulder just went nuclear or something."

"Oh my God, hold on." The artificial sound of virtual breath being drawn tickled Bridge’s auditory nerves. It was hard for someone in a crèche to gasp, but she managed it. "What the fuck happened?"

"They don’t have any idea. But apparently that little hallucination you just had of me in the Blooded Falchion was shared. I swear I was in the Falchion AND the Tanz at the same goddamn time. You know that weirdo feeling you get when you’re jacked in without a crèche and have to look at the real world and the Net at the same time? That double image bullshit that gives you a headache from hell? That’s what it was like. I could feel the table twice. Always makes me feel like the walking dead."

"Did you jack in wireless?"

"Hell, no. You know I don’t jack in anymore unless I have to. This wasn’t conscious, it just happened."

"You sure you didn’t get slipped a nannymick?" Bridge had already considered the idea of a nanobot attack and dismissed it.

He replied, "If it had just been me, I’d have considered it. But everybody in the club with a jack got hit the same way, all screaming out ‘Boulder’ over and over again. Ask around in the joint, see if the other gamers had the same experience." Bridge noticed Aristotle for the first time. The bodyguard was frantically dialing numbers on his cell, putting the receiver to his ear, then cursing at something and repeating the process. "I’ll get back with you, Angie. Something to take care of." Angela broke the connection quickly, with barely a word. Bridge wondered if he should have given an ‘I love you’ but was still unsure where their relationship stood. Living together was one thing, actually saying the words and meaning them with everything that entailed? Something for another time.

"Yo, brother, what’s the problem? Who you trying to call?"

Aristotle looked up quickly from the phone in his hand, his expression one of sheer abject animal terror. He quickly went back to the receiver, dialing again and cursing while ignoring Bridge’s question. His curses only grew louder as his frustration grew. "Fucking piece of shit, why won’t you get through?" he finally screamed into his palm. As if realizing where he was, he looked around quickly and saw the stares of the nearby patrons. Everyone in the joint was on edge, their nerves frayed from the disruption of their normal lives by the outright weird. Bridge put a hand on Aristotle’s shoulder and led him away.

"Calm it down, big guy. We got a reputation to protect. Now who are you trying to call?"

Aristotle seemed unwilling to tell Bridge at first, his eyes darting from Bridge to the phone and back. At last he sighed and stared into Bridge’s eyes. Almost on the verge of tears, he said, "My grandmother. She lives in Boulder, Bridge, and I cannot raise her. I think she’s dead."

Go to Chapter 3.5

No comments:


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