Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 13.0

November 7, 2028
1:04 a.m.

His first sensation was that of warm water on his fingers, palms and wrists. Every nerve in the affected area tingled like the static discharge of freshly dried laundry in winter. He slowly opened one eye then the other. His hands had sunk into the dome’s surface, which rippled like a moonlit pool around his outstretched limbs. His interface jack was on fire, the hairs on his neck surrounding the plug standing straight up. Stealing one more glance back at Carl, he saw that the dragon looked down on him with bored impatience. Bridge took the final step and plunged into the darkened surface.

Though he was on his feet the entire time, his senses screamed that he was falling through empty air. He took tiny tentative steps. His vision was blotted out yet his remaining senses seemed to expand as if he’d just jacked into the GlobalNet. But instead of that familiar blinding white rush of speed, there was wave after wave of black motion, as if the world moved around him, past him, through him. Time seemed to bend and though he knew it to be only seconds, the passage through felt like hours and days compressed into a singularity of perception. Before he knew it, he had made it through, back into reality and blinded by the sunlight.

Sunlight. That was the first thought he could grasp. The sun was too bright. He did not expect the sunlight. There should not be sunlight. There couldn’t be sunlight. But as he looked around him, he confirmed that the sun was indeed shining, though the quality of light was muted. Shielding his eyes, he peered upwards and discovered that the dome’s interior surrounded his vision, encompassing the entirety of the sky. The inside was translucent, dulling the light like a massive pair of sunglasses.

The dome had caused quite a lot of damage. On either side of the four-lane highway sat rows and rows of suburban-style houses. Many were cleanly bisected by the dome’s perimeter and those that were not crushed had been devastated by shockwaves. Windows were blasted out, roofs had lost shingles, and those in immediate proximity to the smashed houses leaned precipitously as if an explosive wave had knocked them off their center. The snow that had been on the ground outside was long since melted in the sun, and not even a hint of powder remained. The air was warm and stuffy, not quite at greenhouse levels of humidity but close. Bridge’s heavy coat suddenly felt very hot, so he took it off, draping it over his shoulder casually. The silence that was so prominent outside was gone, replaced by the normal hum of electricity.

The interior of the dome had electricity. As he walked further up the road away from the immediate blast area, he marveled at the houses which had porch lights burning. He could hear the low-level hum of heating units running. The only thing missing was the people. Scattered cars littered the highway, likely the remnants of the sparse night owls that would have been out at the time of the incident. But each car he approached was empty. Most were still in gear, as if their occupants had suddenly abandoned the vehicle while traveling down the highway without bothering to stop. Many had drifted into the median or the shoulder, some with catastrophic consequences.

One car that had stopped in a turn lane was undamaged, so he hopped in to the driver’s seat. If the lights were on under the dome, perhaps the cars would work too. Nothing remained of the passengers except a large cup filled with molding soda in one of the front seat cup holders. A purse lay mutely in the passenger’s side floorboard. Putting the car into park, he attempted to start it, but the engine refused. A look at the dashboard console showed why. The car had no fuel. Perhaps when its occupant disappeared, it had continued running until the gas tank was exhausted. Bridge wondered how long that would have taken. Curious now, he reached over and examined the purse’s contents. The wallet contained a few Legios’ dollars and a credit ID card with the name Lucinda Barnes. He pocketed the card and the dollars. Selling a credit ID for someone who obviously wasn’t there to object would perhaps make up for some of the money he’d lost on this trip. A quick examination of the car yielded nothing else of value, so he left it in park and continued walking. He tried a few other cars, but all had empty gas tanks.

He eyed the neighborhoods on each side of the highway. A number of cars were parked on the streets and in carports, so he took a detour in the hope that at least one would have fuel. There would likely be vehicles that hadn’t been running when everyone disappeared, and who knew what else he could scavenge. He might even be able to score a midnight snack, as he’d not eaten for hours and his belly rumbled. His first stop was at an older house on Ash Avenue, and he struck pay dirt.

After shattering a window, he waited nervously outside for any response from the residents, but the tinkle of glass was answered only by silence. The house still buzzed with active electricity, the refrigerator still hummed its cooling song, so he made himself a quick turkey sandwich. Stalking through the house carefully as he munched on the snack, he searched each room for evidence of life. Beds were obviously slept in but the sleepers were nowhere to be found. He found a couple more credit ID’s and a 9mm pistol with two extra clips. Normally, the last thing he’d carry is a gun, preferring to rely on Aristotle’s bulk to discourage violence on his person. These circumstances were hardly normal and without his friend’s muscle to back him up, he preferred being armed. He hoped he wouldn’t need to use it. His gun skills were such that he was more likely to do something as stupid as shoot himself in the dick than take down a would-be attacker.

The house search also yielded a set of car keys for the late teens model pickup truck parked on the street. He jumped in and crossed his fingers as he tried the key. The engine roared to life and he let go an exhausted cheer. “That’s what I’m fucking talking about,” he yelled. Realizing he was talking to himself, Bridge shook his head, and aimed the truck back towards the highway, making his way carefully through the minefield of stalled cars.

Go to Chapter 13.5

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