November 2, 2028
“Not a good time, Bridge.”
Right on the edge of Stonewall’s usual gruff tone, Bridge sensed a nervous undercurrent, a wavering insecurity that Bridge had only heard from the ex-footballer once. As they had sat over Twiggs’ body in that dusky warehouse, Stonewall had unleashed a torrent of pent-up anger at his late boss and Bridge had gotten a glimpse of a tiny fissure in the man’s callous façade. He heard inklings of that unsteadiness again and it frightened him just a little. Tonight had already put Bridge off his corn flakes. He needed some stability, some solid foundation in the face of unexpected weirdness.
“When is it ever a good time, my brother?” Bridge joked. The static-filled silence of the old cell network Stonewall used to evade CLED detection shook Bridge out of his typical routine. “What’s going on, Stoney? Are you alone?”
“No,” he replied, “I’m dealing with a situation here.”
“Mr. Johnny on your ass?” Bridge used their code words for Johnny Law, asking without asking if Stonewall was on the lam.
“I can deal with the man. This shit… this is different.” Butterflies spun around in Bridge’s stomach.
“We need to talk.”
Stonewall returned a sigh. “And if I said I wasn’t in a spot to talk, would it matter?”
“Hey, brother, you know me when I need something.”
“You always need something. When do I get to be needy?” Stonewall chuckled a little, easing the tension. “I got people down all over the station, screaming about some kind of rock or boulder or some shit. I’m a little distracted, homes.”
Bridge sat up straight in the back seat of the cab. “Did they all just flop around screaming ‘Boulder’ over and over again?”
“Yeah.” For the first time since the conversation had started, Stonewall sounded interested. “How did you know?”
“Because it just happened to me and about half the Tanz, right about the same time as that explosion in Boulder.”
“Boulder… Boulder, Colorado? What explosion? What you talking about?”
“Turn on your news feeds. I’m coming to you. What station?”
“Umm, shit. Go to Broad… no, hold on, Broad’s where the Kandor boys are right now. Don’t go there. Paulson Avenue. Tell ‘em the barn’s on fire. They’ll get you to the right station.”
“Right, Paulson. Gotcha. See you in a few, brother.” Bridge gave the cabbie the directions to the subway station on Kilborne Street. Stonewall never gave the actual directions to his location over the phone, even over the abandoned cell networks. Bridge and he had worked out a series of code locations when the footballer had returned to town a month ago. Stonewall would tell him a location that was at least four blocks from the real station, with the use of street indicating the real station would be south four blocks and avenue would mean to go four blocks north.
“Everything ok, boss?” Aristotle asked. His worried expression grew even worse at the sight of Bridge’s reaction to the conversation.
“Don’t know, big guy. Say, is your grandmother jacked in?”
Aristotle shook his head. “She’s the arty type, a real bohemian. She didn’t believe in defiling her body with metal. She wouldn’t even get a hip replacement when she took a spill skiing. The doctors and I had to fight her tooth and nail to get her to take nanomeds to rebuild the bone.”
“Good, because it looks like us dumb fuckers with metal in our brain stems got a dose of strange from this Boulder thing. Stonewall’s got folks seizing up as well.”
“Is it just the ones with interface jacks?”
Bridge shrugged. “Don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet against it. You sure you still want to do this? Weird shit always gets weirder.” Aristotle just glared back at Bridge. “All right, I gotta ask.” Bridge slumped back into the seat and stared out the window, putting together a mental list of the things he would need.
Go to Chapter 4.5
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
November 2, 2028