Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 7.5

Chapter 7.0

The Legios Ranger was immense, a swaggering picture of the bubba sheriff stereotype made real, wearing mirrored sunglasses despite the darkness, thumbs hooked in his belt. The glasses were likely a non-implant HUD interface connected to the database in his cruiser. The preponderance of corporate logos all over the uniform and the paramilitary style gear juxtaposed with the affected drawl made for a strangely unsettling picture. Bridge immediately prepared himself for a shakedown.

Stonewall began as calmly as he could. “I’m sorry, officer, this is a new car. Just got it off the lot yesterday, eh? The dealer told me it was clean in all 40 LGL’s and Mexico too.”

The trooper did not look amused. Bridge began to remember some of the stories he’d heard out of Colorado. Most of it was GlobalNet scuttlebutt more than any actual news. After all, the LGL-controlled news nets in Chronosoft’s LGL would be reluctant to talk smack about a fellow LGL for fear of creating a negative perception about the LGL program as a whole. Barely a year old, the program still faced an uphill battle gaining public acceptance, along with the very real threat that the whole thing could be scrapped by regular federal audits built into the LGL bill. Chronosoft had barely passed one hurdle with their sham of an election two months ago.

Legios was known to operate quite differently than the professionals at Chronosoft Law Enforcement Division (CLED) Bridge was used to. CLED was composed of ex-LAPD and corporate security. The Legios Rangers seemed more like a well-financed survivalist militia given authority. The gigantic sidearm on the trooper’s belt and the grenade magna-locked to his vest did nothing to dispel the myth. The entire time the trooper spoke with Stonewall, he rarely moved his right hand far from the hand cannon.

“Son, it might have been clean over in that fancy pants Califurnya Chronosoft rat hole, but this here’s Colorado. We don’t just let everybody run around free as you please in our fair state. Especially not since some terrorists decided to blow up one of our cities.”

Bridge cringed as Aristotle asked, “Terrorists? I didn’t know the news had said anything about terrorism. Did they definitively establish that it was an attack? My grandmother is in Boulder. We’re going to take her somewhere safe. Can you tell me if she was a casualty?”

“Grandmother, eh?” The ranger’s skepticism was written all over his face. “We don’t just hand out that kind of information to strangers driving through in unlicensed cars. You… fellers will have to accompany me to the station. We’ll sort out this whole license issue and see about your… grandmother.” Bridge could tell the trooper was a second away from calling everyone in the car ‘boys’ but thought better of it. Corporate culture had made even the most Neanderthal of police sensitive to the nature of bad PR.

Bridge whispered into his phone, trying to be as quiet and invisible as possible. “Angie, what have you got for me? Badge number 4A598D4832.”

The ranger must have heard Bridge, or seen his lips moving. “What the fuck are you doing back there? Are you talking on the phone? What are you whispering about?”His hand was firmly on the butt of the pistol now, his hackles up. Bridge tried to protest his innocence, but the trooper wasn’t having it. “All right, all three of you, out of the car, let’s go, right now. Get out of the goddamn car.”

Bridge tried to take control of the conversation. “Whoa, officer, it’s ok, I was just talking to my girlfriend back home. She’s worried…”

“I’m trying to break through, Artie, but I can’t. There’s some serious interference going on. WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?” Her shout was so loud it rang about inside Bridge’s skull painfully, making him cringe visibly.

Bridge forgot the trooper for a moment, Angie’s tone of pure panic overriding his normal instinct for self-preservation. “Angie! Are you ok? Angie!”

“All right, put your hands up, son!” The trooper’s gun was out in a flash and pointed directly at Bridge. “I don’t know what conversation you got going on, but we’ll just settle that down at the station. Hang up the phone and put your hands up!”

“Artie, I found your trooper’s car and… I don’t know how to describe it. This thing has wings… giant golden wings. I can’t even see all of it. Red eyes. It’s… it’s beautiful. I can’t even tell if it’s digital or real. I think it’s doing something to the trooper’s car.”

“What? His car?” Bridge noticed the flashing lights of the cruiser were shifting. They seemed to be rising, as if the car itself was being lifted off the ground. Turning his head to look, the headlights blinded him momentarily. Shading his eyes, the headlights shifted, moving downward towards the ground as if pushed. He became aware of a sound, the sound of rending metal twisting and bending like paper. The headlights were pointed down at the ground now, and he could finally see what was happening. The car was reshaping itself, its frame twisted, manipulated into a different shape by invisible hands. The windshield flattened and splintered. The roof lights formed a glittering forehead. The doors opened and were twisted into makeshift limbs, the back tires into stubby feet and legs. The whole time the car was bathed in a faint golden orange light, and the light seemed to twinkle in tiny runic shapes as it danced around the deformed car. “What the fuck is that?” was all he could think to say. Bridge’s interface jack itched.

The trooper turned to see what was transfixing Bridge. At first, all he could do was whip off the sunglasses and stare in awe, his gun held aimlessly away from Bridge. He regained some of his composure, directing questions at the car. “What the fuck did you do to my car?” he stammered.
“I didn’t do anything!” He leaned up to whisper in Stonewall’s ear. “Stoney, when I give the word, get us the fuck out of here.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice, Bridge. Angie doing that?” he whispered back.

“No way in hell.”

The cruiser bot began to walk, awkwardly putting one twisted tire foot in front of the other. The cop cursed loudly and pushed away from their car, aiming the gun and firing. The hand cannon made an impressive sound, its .44 caliber shells booming in the still night air. The bullet lodged harmlessly in the splintered windshield. He fired again twice, trailing bullets down the car’s body. A headlight, located somewhere around stomach level, shattered in a shower of sparks.

“Punch it!” Bridge screamed. Stonewall obliged, turning on the car and gunning it down the shoulder, spitting gravel with a shrieking of tires. The trooper screamed at the car fruitlessly, refusing to divert his attention from the lumbering metallic threat. Bridge heard a few more booming shots and screamed curses before they pulled out of sight around the corner.

“Bridge, what in the world was that?” Aristotle asked frightfully.

“Don’t look at me. I’m as shocked as the rest of you.”

“Somebody out there must really want us to get to Boulder,” Stonewall said, and the unsettling truth was that Bridge couldn’t disagree.

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