Once their course of action was set, Bridge plugged himself into the news feeds to catch up on the situation. He needed to know as much of what was going on in the area, if for no other reason than to try to cook up some cover, some plausible if far-fetched reason to be in the area. He would need to brief Aristotle on the lies to remember as well. The well-meaning lug had been entirely too forthcoming to that cop. There were a few scary moments along the road as more Legios Ranger cruisers went blazing past in the other direction, but they paid no notice to Bridge’s car. Probably too busy worrying about the giant killer car robot attacking one of their own.
The news was all Boulder, all the time, filled to the brim with eyewitness accounts, user-submitted video, audio and photos, but most was little more informative than the previous night’s coverage. Bridge pieced together a timeline from the various mainstream sources. Around 1:45 a.m. the previous evening, an explosion occurred, possibly centered on the University of Colorado campus. All cell phone, GlobalNet, video, radio, all electronic communication channels with the city were immediately cut off. Within 30 minutes, some type of dome had surrounded most of the city, a perfectly solid, opaque sphere covering around three square miles. All roads leading into the area had been closed. Both local Legios officials and federal agents were on the scene investigating. Despite multiple rushed interviews and televised press conferences, neither offered any explanation. Of course, that didn’t stop the media’s talking heads from bringing in every kind of talking head expert they could find, from terrorism wonks to physics geeks, meteorologists and emergency management authorities. The Feds were there in a merely advisory role, as the terms of the LGL gave Legios emergency management authority until such time as they surrendered that authority upwards. Bridge’s contact Tom Williams of CNN tried to make an early controversy over images of idling FEMA trucks lined up in Denver, unable to move into the area without proper authorization. One commercial break later and that story had disappeared from the network’s archive footage.
The area of Boulder outside the dome was mostly intact, though there was no power, water or GlobalNet service. The Legios EMA had begun evacuating those people to various sites, and Bridge bookmarked some of the sites so he could go back and locate them later. He was likely to have to do a lot of legwork going from evacuee camp to evacuee camp trying to get information on survivors. Keeping Aristotle under control would be another tough task. If Legios or the Feds were already trying to position the explosion as an act of terrorism, a couple of guys from Chronosoft LGL in a car with suspect papers would lead to all sorts of questions. There was little video of the survivors owing to an apparent Legios embargo, but CNN did manage to get a shot of some very shell-shocked survivors trudging out of the city. Most seemed utterly unable to process what had happened to them.
Despite the tight-lipped Legios authorities, the story had exploded across the true fourth estate, the GlobalNet. Blogs, vlogs, chats, forums, web sites, anywhere that someone with a voice not connected to a corporate media outlet could speak was doing just that. Even searches that filtered out hits from mainstream media sources still numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Conspiracy theories abounded, of course. It was aliens, it was the government trying to queer the LGL deal, it was time-travelers, it was God, Allah, Buddha, Nature. The sinners were being punished, the Earth Mother was taking back her own, whatever batshit insane agenda Bridge could think of was being pimped to explain the unexplainable. Bridge just had to sit back and laugh at some of them. But at least the tinfoil brigade was thorough. The collection of hastily-snapped, badly-lit photos, shaky cam video footage and unfiltered eyewitness accounts was vast. All the information Bridge should have gotten from the official sources, the stuff Legios and the Feds would never have allowed to be publicized was all out there for the taking, if one was persistent enough. Sites were getting taken down left and right, but the information was like a ball of mercury; trying to grasp it just caused it to flow through the proverbial fingers, flowing around obstructions with blinding speed.
The most interesting user video was from a Denver resident who’d managed to sneak past the official cordons to actually touch the dome. The user, named AndrewCrazy7443, had gotten right up to the dome, and like any good caveman faced with the unfathomable, had decided to throw things at it. A half-full water bottle bonked off the surface loudly. Stones skittered off the surface harmlessly. Emboldened by his experiments, he ran up to the dome and gingerly put his hand on it, smiling back at the camera with the shit-eating grin of a man unknowingly about to be educated on the survival of the smartest. The shiny black surface, so reminiscent of a crèche, was inert for but a moment. Just like the footage from the chopper, the surface began to glow with orange runic symbols. Ignoring the warnings of his cameraman, the braggart continued to touch the surface, at least until the lightning arced off the dome. His screams would have been funny to Bridge if they hadn’t sounded so final. Bridge always did enjoy seeing a complete dumbass pay for his abject stupidity. The cameraman at least had the good sense not to try to grab a person in the throes of electrocution.
Bridge had gathered a good deal of information by the time they neared the outskirts of Boulder Mountain Park. Though the place was dark, the moonlight illuminated the park’s shabby state. Legios had done little to maintain the place once they gained control of local and state government. At least they had offered the land for purchase by groups like the Naturalists, but it was still a sad sight passing abandoned ranger stations, picnic tables and gazebos. Its condition reminded him of the state of the LA subways. Bridge quickly lost track of what direction they were heading, as Stonewall guided the car off the main paths and into pitch black roads that were veritable caves cut through overgrown forests. Back and forth they twisted and turned, possibly back-tracking and crossing over their past paths until Bridge just decided to look at the sky instead of trying to plot their location. Even the satnav was little help.
He was utterly blinded by the sudden illumination of gigantic arc lights shining directly in his face. Stonewall slammed on the brakes, throwing Bridge forward into the back of the driver’s seat. He cursed loudly, his eyes swimming in painful blinking lights. "What the fuck?"
"We’re here," Stonewall said.
Bridge blinked with watery eyes, seeing shadowy, armed shapes emerge out of the light. "Out of the car, now!" was all he heard before his door was opened and he was roughly yanked from the vehicle.
Go to Chapter 9.0
Thursday, April 2, 2009