Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 9.0

November 3, 2028
1:34 a.m.

Bridge stepped out of the car gingerly, hiding his nervousness beneath the casual exterior of a bored tourist. He stretched and popped his stiff back with no more attention paid to the six gun barrels pointing at him than to the blinding floodlights. Tossing a glance at Stonewall, he was calmed by the lack of concern on the Mexican’s face. “Identify yourself,” a gruff voice said from Bridge’s right.

“We’re looking for Bud,” Stonewall replied nonchalantly.

“Bud ain’t taking visitors. Now take that pretty vehicle of yours back down the trail where you came from. This is private property.”

Bridge was about to turn on the charm, but Stonewall interceded calmly. “Is that you, Sly? Don’t you remember me?” The shadowed voice didn’t seem to. “S’ok, we’ll do it that way. The third tenet of the Naturalist movement is ‘Technology is a tool, not a master.’ The seventh tenet is ‘Use your power as nature does, sparingly.’ The tenth tenet is…”

“Yeah, ok, you’ve read the book. That don’t mean I let you in these gates.”

Another voice rang out of the darkness, its source unseen beyond the blinding light. “What’s the name of Bud’s first dog?” it asked with a hint of mirth.

“Bud, that you?” Stonewall replied, shielding his eyes and trying to peer past the lights. “Your first dog was named William Tell.”

Bridge couldn’t help laughing. “Who names their dog William Tell?”

“All right, gents, put down the heaters. This here is friends, more or less.” The guards looked nervously from one to the other. “Go on, unclench. Open the gate and let’s welcome our guests.” Bridge and Aristotle sighed with relief as the gunmen lowered their weapons. The dazzling lights went dark with an audible click, revealing a rather flimsy metal gate. Smaller lights to either side of the gate switched on. Bridge noticed in the shadows along either side of the road sat well-camouflaged sniper’s nest, just big enough for one or two prone shooters to perforate anything on the road. Bud stood leaning on the fence post beside the gate.

Tall and thick, Bud appeared to be 50 going on 70, his skin’s leathery texture hinting at years of living in harsh climes. He shifted a well-worn cowboy hat, revealing a tousled mop of graying dark hair shaved on the sides. Despite the cold, he wore a sleeveless wife-beater T-shirt and weathered blue jeans and was barefoot despite the patches of snow on the ground. As they drove past him into the compound, Bridge couldn’t help notice Bud’s piercing eyes. The man had the stare of a coldly calculating killer. The tattoo sleeve on his right arm Bridge recognized as the insignia of a Marine unit, probably acquired during the Chavez War of the previous decade. Bud looked nothing like the leader of a hippie commune. But then, the commune was nothing like Bridge had expected either.

The place was large, probably 2-3 square miles, much of it mountainous and heavily forested. The clearings were dominated by sturdy cabins, some still under construction. Small plots of tilled soil were everywhere, though most were covered with translucent plastic to keep the ground from freezing. Bridge was surprised to see that every cabin had ample electric lighting. Stonewall guided the car to a stop in front of a large communal cabin. A small windmill turned slowly behind the main cabin, the creaking noise sounding much too loud in the silent night air.

Bud led the trio into the main hall, dismissing most of the guards who had followed the party in. The gruff-voiced one, the one Stonewall had called Sly, was reluctant to leave his leader alone with the group. Bud dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “Me and Stonewall go back a ways, Sly. I’m sure he ain’t gonna stick a knife in me, k?” Bridge noticed a bandage underneath Bud’s shirt just above his right hip. He raised an eyebrow.

“Is that a common occurrence?” he asked, pointing to the bandage.

Bud just shrugged indifferently. “Bah, sometimes you think you know a feller and sometimes you DO know a feller and just ain’t fast enough to do anything ‘bout it. Getting slow in my old age.” He turned that piercing gaze on Stonewall. “All right, Juan, what’s the trouble? You on the lam again?”

“I’m always on the lam, amigo. But that ain’t exactly why I’m here. Mi hermano here, he needed my help.” He pointed at Aristotle. Bud nodded his head and listened to the story intently, interjecting questions every now and then. When the story was finished, Stonewall asked, “So can we base ourselves out here, maybe get a little help?”

Bud scratched the graying stubble on his prominent chin, the tiny white line of a knife scar twitching in the low light. “That dome thing’s causing all sorts of trouble ‘round here. These Legios’ assholes have always been puckered pretty tight, but with the Feds watching over, they are super tight. A couple of ‘em even got brave enough to patrol down by the gate earlier tonight. You reckon you’ll have to light any of ‘em up?”

Stonewall shook his head. “Not if I can help it, brau.”

“Too bad.”

“I just want to find my grandma,” Aristotle pleaded. Bud nodded resolutely, empathy plainly evident in his expression.

“We’ll see what we can do. I’ll get you some beds ready, take a few minutes.” He called out to a woman named Janice, who came into the main hall and received instructions, nodded and went about her business. “Janice will get you set up, just take a few minutes. Better get some rest. We get up damned early around here. After breakfast, we’ll take you to see the dome.”

Go to Chapter 9.33

No comments:


Chapters (17) Cyberpunk (26) GlobalPedia (10) Interviews (3) KCChapters (54) Meatpunk (4) News (76) Reviews (15) Tales (10)