Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 4.5

Chapter 4.0

The subways of Los Angeles had been taken over shortly after the 2027 riots by the various street gangs and indigent downtrodden, a result of the Chronosoft LGL’s policy of willfully ignoring anyone that didn’t contribute to the company’s bottom line. Stonewall led one of those gangs, the Los Magos family. They used the term family in the loosest sense, modeled somewhat after the mafioso crime family system from Italy. Los Magos was part of the collective called the Five Families, and each claimed a portion of the subway for itself. Despite the LGL’s withdrawal of funds, the Families kept the subways in tip-top working order, in part due to their policy of shelter for all. The Families could count former engineers, computer whiz kids and other professionals left homeless by cred-crashing, riots and corporate indifference.

Kilborne Station was El Diablos territory, and they appeared none too willing to help out any friends of Stonewall. No one got onto the subway without a thorough search for weapons, but the Diablos were especially rough on Bridge and his companion. He got the feeling they were deliberately attempting to insult Stonewall but he let it slide. No sense causing Stonewall any more headaches.

The ride to Stonewall’s quarters was uneventful, other than the smoldering glances thrown at the passengers by the guards. On arrival they were rudely forced off, causing a tense moment of hostile stares between the greeting party and the train’s guards. Bridge defused the situation with a little bit of humor, but it was obvious the two Diablos guards had beef with the Magos. One of the Magos guards kissed his trigger finger and pointed it at the departing train. The target just pounded his chest and smiled as if to say, “Bring it on.”

As they were escorted to Stonewall, Bridge got a glimpse of the troubles the ex-footballer suffered from. In a scene reminiscent of the Tanz, at least one out of every three people were recovering from the seizures, their eyes glassy, their friends helping them just as Aristotle had helped Bridge. Seeing the afflicted rub their necks, Bridge was reminded of his own splitting headache, a pain he’d been repressing in the rush of preparation.

The gigantic ex-footballer turned gang leader Stonewall Ricardo was leaning over one of the stricken when Bridge reached him. He stood to his full 6’5” height, all lanky muscle and deceptive grace. He ran a hand over his dyed-blonde hair, which was tied in hundreds of neat spikes. He had been a professional soccer player before injuring his knee in a training ground accident so horrific, it had required a cybernetic replacement. To this day, the league banned cybernetics, depriving him of his life’s passion and his livelihood. To make ends meet, he’d taken to enforcing for one of his soccer buddies. Unknown to Bridge at the time, Stonewall had also risen to a high rank in the Magos family, to the point where he was their leader in all but title. He was one of the toughest and most resourceful men Bridge knew, and Bridge knew everybody. Bridge owed Stonewall his life twice over.

“Stoney, brother,” Bridge began with as much camaraderie as he could muster.

“Don’t butter me up, Bridge. I’m not in the mood.” His face was all worried frustration. He cared deeply for his people. He was practically a revolutionary martyr for these people. “I got people screaming and going into seizures all over the line. You telling me this Boulder thing’s got something to do with it? What do you know?”

“It happened to half the Tanz right about the same time Boulder went boom,” Bridge replied. “Did you see the video of that cameraman doing the flyover? Remind you of anything?”

Stonewall nodded. “Si. Now what the fuck does an explosion in Boulder have to do with my people?”

“Not a goddamn clue, brother. But I got a guess. Every one of the ones flopping on the floor like a fish were jacked, am I right?” Stonewall nodded and appeared about to ask another question, but Bridge cut him off with a raised hand. “Everybody in the Tanz that got hit was jacked too, including me. The cameraman on the TV was probably jacked. And I’m betting we all had the same kind of hallucination. It was like we got connected, like we all jacked into the GlobalNet wireless without trying. But we weren’t just there, we were out here too. Really fucks with your sense of equilibrium.”

“So what did you see?”

“I was in Perthnia with Angie. And she was sort of in the Tanz or something but neither image was solid enough to be real or virtual. It was like ghost images one on top of the other. You got any new cell phones in here?”

“Naw, brother, you know we use the old 3G stuff. That new crap is all traced up.”

“Just after the seizures stopped, the cells all got a text saying ‘Boulder’ too. All this happening the same time as that explosion is a coincidence? Uh uh, I don’t believe in coincidences that big. Whatever that wave was, it came from Boulder.”

“So what’s that got to do with you needing shit from me?”

Bridge pointed back at Aristotle. “Actually, he needs me. And I need you to do what he needs me for. Big boy’s grandmama lives in Boulder, and he’s got it in his head that with or without my help, he’s got to go rescue her. Now, normally I’d tell him to go blow, but I owe him.”

“You owe everybody, Bridge,” Stonewall said with a smile. Bridge knew he had little hope of ever paying back the debt he owed Stoney.

“I don’t forget my debts, brother. You help me with this, I help you with your little Diablos problem. I couldn’t help notice the tension there.”

“You know how it is, Bridge. Little trifling beef turns into tit for ratatattatting. Pedro’s trying to smooth it over.” Pedro was the Magos' titular leader, known among the Families as Los Reyes Magos or The Wise King, Pedro was evenhanded but disliked violence. Bridge knew that Pedro had lost much of the Magos' respect just by attempting peaceful resolutions. Gangsters used to solving things with a gun rarely got the satisfaction they desired with words. “What do you need?” Stonewall sighed.

“A clean car with net hookup and a bodyguard.”

“You got a bodyguard,” Stonewall replied, pointing at Aristotle.

“I need someone who won’t hesitate to take it all the way. I don’t pay him enough to fight, much less kill a motherfucker what needs it. More important, I need someone that isn’t distracted. No offense, Aristotle.” Aristotle just shrugged. “So really, you’d be doing it for him, not me.”

Stonewall pondered the situation hard, his brow furrowed. “For your abuela, I’ll do this. But your boss here is going to owe me again.”

“I appreciate it, Stonewall. If there is something I can do…”

“No. I got a grandmother too, eh? I’d be doing the same thing.”

“You’re both crazy,” Bridge joked.

“We’re just human, Bridge. You should try it some time.”

With the deal settled, they chewed over the details. They would leave the next morning around 7 a.m. It was almost four before Bridge got home. Angie had shut down the crèche for the night, and sat on the couch, folding her legs up under her chin. Bridge spent another hour consoling her and explaining the trip. The shock of the wave had affected her more than either of them would have believed. At first, she was adamantly against Bridge’s trip to Boulder. Once she realized his mind was made up, she insisted on going along. Bridge refused to put her in danger, reminding her that she had duties to take care of with her virtual world and their information-trading business. She would not be dissuaded and eventually they compromised. She would stay in LA, but would tag along virtually. Bridge would use a wireless cell connection, checking in with her on the GlobalNet every hour. She would provide any hacking tasks they needed. Her regular duties monitoring the stable of hackers she had out at any one time would be delegated to one of her best assistants. That settled, they fell asleep spooning on the couch, a desperate sadness in their embrace.

Go to Chapter 5.0

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