Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 9.66

Chapter 9.0
Chapter 9.33

The amphitheater was smaller than Bridge had expected, perhaps 400 feet in diameter. Resting in a clearing carved out of the forest, the seats were cobblestone constructs in a series of concentric circles facing a raised stage also made of rough cobblestones. The whole area was overgrown, as if nature had decided to take back the site from human civilization. Grass grew around the seats up to Bridge’s knee. Behind the stage was the most gorgeous backdrop of the surrounding area looking off east into the sunrise. Bridge could see for miles.

And there in the distance was what Bridge had come to see. As he gulped up the thin mountain air, his jaw dropped open and the breath caught in his throat. Normally, he’d have been at least struck dumb by the gorgeous scenery, the greens and browns of verdant mountains majestically overlooking the valley below. But today, he was awestruck by the construct that dominated his vision.

Here and there, buildings and scattered houses poked through the greenery, their roofs shining brightly as the morning sun glinted off their snow-covered rooftops. But as his eye tracked farther east past the outskirts of Boulder, the inconceivable swallowed the view. The dome was too large to comprehend; its inclusion in this scene so incongruous that his mind rebelled. Like the back of a gigantic beetle, its black surface shone smoothly in the rising sun. It was a giant polished basalt stone in the river of green, not even patches of snow breaking the smoothness of its surface. The television cameras could not have done it justice. Bridge did not believe in a God, but he could imagine some impossibly gigantic hand reaching down to pick up this stone and toss it across the ocean like some colossal child skipping a stone. Beyond the dome, many more miles away, Bridge could see the eastern areas of the town that had not been covered. The dome dwarfed even the largest man-made buildings. A lump of primal fear caught in Bridge’s throat.

Aristotle shuffled down the main aisle and onto the stage, his shocked silence a palpable thing. Bridge felt the tiniest pang of sympathy for the man. Aristotle had always been so calm in the worst of times, unflappable even facing the business end of a gun. For the first time, Bridge wanted to be here, wanted to help this man find his grandmother, no matter how impossible that seemed in the face of such a monstrosity. Aristotle’s feet failed him and he slumped awkwardly to a seat on the edge of the stage. “How is that possible?” His voice broke with emotion.

Bridge put a steadying hand on Aristotle’s shoulder. “We’ll find her, big guy. We’ll find her.” He stopped himself from turning that into a promise, as much as he wanted to reassure his friend. Bridge knew as well as anyone there that the chances of finding Aristotle’s grandmother were slim, but he resisted his natural inclination to say so. Better to leave it unspoken.

“We used to come up here every July when I was a kid. The vacation bible school would bring in some Passion Play troupe to put on a show. Do you realize the kind of effect seeing Christ crucified and resurrected on this backdrop has on a 12-year old? Gram always said a little religion would keep me on the straight and narrow. Not that it did, of course, but that never stopped her. I guess I had to learn my own lessons.”

“We all do, brau,” Stonewall said. “Mi madre was dead-set on me being some kind of teacher or something, but I had to go play football. Not listening don’t mean we don’t love ‘em.” Aristotle nodded grimly. Bridge left the two talking.

“So how much support can Stonewall’s friendship buy us?” Bridge asked Bud with a steely directness. “You ain’t just letting us stay here out of the goodness of your heart, and you and I both know we’re unlikely converts. What’s the vig?”

Bud gave Bridge a wry smile, but his mood was deadly serious. “I do you a favor, you do me one,” he began. “I told you we send out recruiters to the cities, they stay for a month or so and rotate back. Well, one of those cities is Boulder. I had a team of three living near the university. We get a better response from the college kids, though they aren’t always the most committed to the cause when they get down to the nitty-gritty. Now maybe they got out, and maybe they didn’t, but we haven’t heard from them. Juan tells me your man’s grandmother lived near the university too, so I figure if you’re looking for her, she’ll be around the same place as my people. Since you’re already looking, what’re three more names?”

“And why haven’t you already sent some people to look?”

“I may have bought this land from Legios, but that don’t mean we’re friends. I’ve seen the news. Those boys are tossing around the terrorism label like it’s going out of style. How much of a stretch do you think it would be to label a bunch of well-armed anti-corporate types living like mountain men as some crazy militia plotting to overthrow the LGL?”

“Not much of a stretch at all,” Bridge agreed.

“Juan says you’re the magic man, the golden-tongued con man can charm the panties off a nun. That true?” Bridge just shrugged with a sly smile. “You put my people’s names on your list, you got whatever you need to get it done.” Left unsaid was the other alternative. Don’t help and get sent packing.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Go to Chapter 10.0

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