Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 7.0

November 2, 2028
7:08 p.m.

Bridge managed to get restful if not quite comfortable sleep on the other side of Vegas, waking sometime in mid-afternoon as they lumbered past Salina, Utah. Stonewall maneuvered around the I-70 traffic with dispassionate haste, cutting through what rush hour traffic there was with ease. Had Bridge not gotten the rest before, the lack of landmarks along the interstate would have put him right back to sleep. Four lanes of seemingly endless tarmac cut through hilly scrubland populated with little more than cactus, broken up by gigantic buttes and blood orange cliff faces hewn by millennia of wind, sun and rain. The isolation, the vast open spaces, the pure distance from person to person was enough to make him shudder at the thought of living in this barren wasteland. As dusk started to settle over the highway, Bridge noticed the air growing thinner with elevation, the roadside vegetation turning a more fertile green despite the fall chill. The temperature had steadily dropped as they made their way east, causing him to huddle into his jacket for warmth.

With night almost completely blanketing the highway, they crossed the Colorado state line. A gigantic sign celebrated their passage. Stonewall’s voice broke the silence that had permeated the car for the last hundred miles or so. “Uh oh,” he said with a hint of worry.

“Uh oh? What uh oh?”

“Read the sign, hombre.” He pointed to the fifty-foot billboard by the side of the road. It was lit as brightly as an airport landing strip. It read:

“The Legios Corporation welcomes you to the LGL District of Colorado. Your vehicle’s registration has been automatically scanned and is being tracked. The friendly troopers of the Legios Rangers will detain vehicles not licensed for use in the state of Colorado. Welcome to Where the Columbines Grow!”

A not entirely inviting picture of a Ranger pointed out at the passersby with an expression that was half-friendly smile, half-interrogatory warning. His uniform was paramilitary SWAT gear littered with corporate logos, topped by a cowboy hat bearing the new state flag. Rather than the red “C” on a field of blue and white, the flag bore the stylized red “L” of the Legios logo over the typical colors.

“Does that mean what I think it means?” Bridge asked.

“Yep. That shit's new since the last time I was through here. Like within the last month new.”

Aristotle’s voice betrayed a growing nervousness. “I thought this car was clean.”

“Oh it’s squeaky clean anywhere west of the Mississippi, except apparently Colorado. I’d heard these Legios pendejos were puckered tight, I just didn’t know how tight. Their troopers are… let’s just say before the riots, their troopers were probably stockpiling guns and canned goods in some remote compound bunker.”

“Great, redneck militia with corporate gear and license to pull over anybody they want. Fuck.”

“We can get off the highway; try to work the back roads.”

“Let me think for a minute.” Bridge pondered the situation and immediately hit upon something of a solution. He dropped down into a link up with Angie, thanking the Legios Corporation for its commitment to keeping the interstate's cell connections pristine. “Angie, we got a problem.”

Her voice was a welcome tonic, a calming agent to the growing ball of nervousness in his stomach. "Yeah, baby, I’m with you. What do you need?”

“We just crossed into Colorado. Apparently the Legios LGL is super paranoid, scanning every car entering the state. Any chance you can work us up some clean Legios paperwork?”

A pause. He could tell Angela had dove into the vast expanses of emptiness between data locations, skidding through the GlobalNet’s ocean at the speed of thought. “DMV is fucking gigantic. There is no way any motor vehicle bureau should have this much security. Fuck!”

“What is it?”

“Just dodging some roving ice. The whole fucking state’s buzzing with security drones. I can beat it, but it’s going to take time.”

“How much time do you think we have, Stoney?”

“I’d say about three minutes based on those lights I see up ahead.”

“Three minutes, Angie. What can you do for me?”

“Not fucking much, Bridge. You think you’d have researched this shit beforehand, huh?”

“Last minute, babe, you know the drill.”

“Yeah, I got… motherfucker!” Bridge tried to keep his anxiety down, to not scream out with each exclamation. He was just as worried for her as he was for himself and his companions. “Sorry, just had to gank a robot. The whole goddamn state is on high alert. It looks like they’ve shutdown most Net communications in and out except on authorized channels. The news says they think some kind of Net virus is being broadcast from Boulder… whoa.”

“What whoa?”

“It’s gorgeous. I never imagined…”

“Ange, you’re going space cowboy on me. What’s gorgeous?”

“Boulder. The whole fucking city is sealed off in a giant dome, just like in real life. There’s something being built in here, something fantastic. I’ve never seen anything like it. The whole thing is crawling with builder bots.”

“Can you admire it later?” He could see the flashing blue lights ahead, the trooper’s headlights filling the front windshield. “We got company.”

“Ok, I’m going. I think I’ve got an opening into the comm channel for the trooper’s cars. Can you get me a trooper badge number or a car number?”

“I’ll see what I can do.” The trooper’s cruiser had passed them and turned around in the median, roaring up behind them with lights ablaze. The car’s satnav screen flashed to the Legios logo, its cold computerized voice informing the passengers that the Legios Corporation requested the car pull over to the shoulder at the earliest convenience. Stonewall eased the car to a stop. Bridge heard the hammer of a pistol clicking into place.

“Bridge, whatever your girl is doing, she better do it quick.” The nervous tension had dissipated from Stonewall’s voice, replaced with the hard steel of a killer prepared to do what he must. “There’s plenty of books that still got me wanted as a cop killer, you know.”

“I know, brother. Keep it holstered and give her a minute.”

The ominous crunch of gravel under the trooper’s boot heels sounded deafening in Bridge’s ears. He peeled his eyes for any identifying number on the trooper’s person.

“Welcome to Colorado, friends,” began the trooper in a steely tone of faked hospitality. “Would you like to tell me why you’re entering our fair state without proper authorization?”

Go to Chapter 7.5

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