Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 15.0

November 7, 2028
Time Unknown

Bridge hung with his arms pinned to his side staring at the angry Chinese man floating above him. He wasn’t sure whether to be afraid or laugh hysterically. Other than the blue sparks dancing from the man’s fingers, the flier was almost comically non-threatening. His spiky hair was matted and unkempt, his skinny human arm probably couldn’t bend a wet noodle and his clothes gave him the appearance of a college nerd. Nevertheless, Bridge recognized the dangers of whatever invisible force this little geek was using to hold Bridge captive. Once he’d realized his predicament, Bridge stopped struggling completely and played possum. “Calm down there, dude,” Bridge quipped nonchalantly. “My name is Bridge.”

“You’re named after a bridge?” The kid’s brows knotted in confusion.

“No, my name IS Bridge. Artemis Bridge.” The name didn’t seem to provoke any sort of reaction. “Come on, surely you were told I was coming. Carl said you were waiting for me. Are you Balfour? He told me to go see Balfour.”

The name-dropping seemed to confuse the kid even more. His hands relaxed a little. Bridge felt the vice group loosen on his arms enough for him to wiggle his hand free. "Carl… sent you? To see Balfour?”

Bridge shrugged. “Well, that’s what he said. I’m supposed to ask Balfour all my questions, and boy do I have a bunch. What’s your name? You already know mine so how’s about you tell me your name and we put me down.”

“Wong,” the kid said absentmindedly. “Quon Wong.” He seemed to come to some kind of decision, tightening his metallic fist. Immediately, Bridge felt the constricting grip close on his ribs, choking some of the breath from his lungs. “You’re lying!”

Bridge squeezed out, “WONG, WONG! I swear… Carl… the fucking… flame dragon… sent me to see… some guy named… Balfour!”

“Carl’s dead! We heard his last transmission. This is a trick! Who are you really?”

“I’m… FUCKING… BRIDGE… GODDAMNIT! The dragon… sent me! He said only I could come through… the bubble… it was… set to allow… just me... how am I… going to… fake that?”
That gave Wong pause, and Bridge felt the vice loosen slightly again. “I swear I’m Artemis Bridge. You’ve been sending me signals over my jack for five days.”

“Hold on,” Wong snapped. The flames on his fingertips were extinguished as he made a flourish with his left hand. A dual-sided screen of data popped into view in the air above Bridge. He could see the mug shot he’d taken in ’26. Wong compared Bridge’s face with the mug shot, squinting and scrutinizing the grainy black and white photo. “That photo doesn’t flatter you. You should have been here days ago.” The grip was now loose enough for Bridge to move, and his stomach lurched a little as the invisible hand seemed to cradle his rear end in a floating invisible chair. “Carl told us you were coming three days before those bastards killed him.”

“Three days?” Bridge asked incredulous. “Dude, I just saw him two hours ago. At least I think it was two hours ago. It was nighttime when I left him, and it’s daytime now, so I’m really losing track of time here, but it feels like two hours. Maybe three.”

“I know, I have to turn the lights on and off all the time,” Wong complained. “I have to pause the simulation every time I do that, and it’s really interfering with my work. I tried to set a timer on the lights but it kept getting reset. The physics engine alone is enough to take up most of my cycles, and I can’t squash this glitch with the crosses from the left corner. The fullbacks want to follow the cross in rather than try to block it, but I think I have the subroutine located.”

“The simulation? You mean that freak show of metal men you got running around tearing up the pitch down there?”

“Frikkin’ awesome, ain’t it? I can alter the metal’s surface to put whatever kits I want on them, and I’m using the latest FIFA player rankings to set play characteristics, with my own special tweaks, of course, ‘cos those Man. U. rankings are way overrated. I thought about trying to put down an artificial surface to keep from tearing up the grass but then I’d have to alter my ball physics to work like grass, so just keep grass, you know what I mean?”

“Whoa, whoa, man, you’re losing me. Focus.” He waved a hand in front of Wong’s face to fix the kid’s eyes on him. “How many of there are you?”

“There’s me, obviously, and then there’s Balfour, you know about him, and then there was Carl but he was out there until he got killed and there’s Lydia and Janicki and that douche Rolfsberg. You don’t want to meet him.” Bridge was already tiring of Wong’s chattering. The kid had a horrible case of the motormouth, and most of it was a blithering spew that seemed to come from some other dimension, ideas sparking into words with little thought behind them. Just as Bridge was ready to cut the geek off, he was interrupted by the squealing of tires.

A car had sped up to the field and stopped suddenly, disgorging three figures. The driver was a tall Nordic-looking blonde man with a stern, square chin and short, tightly curled hair. He wore a white jacket that looked like some kind of lab coat. The front passenger was a slightly stocky woman with close-cropped auburn hair dressed in dark slacks and a conservative silk blouse. From the back seat stood a towering bald man with a gray goatee dressed in a black button-up shirt and black jeans. All three appeared to have at least one arm that was cybernetic.

“Wong, who the hell is that?” screamed the blonde. “Why didn’t you call and tell us there was someone here?”

“Oh goodie, it’s the asshole brigade,” Wong muttered.

Go to Chapter 15.5

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