Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 16.5

Chapter 16.0

The battle had lasted less than two minutes. Once Bridge was sure it was safe, he stood along with Lydia and Janicki, all too stunned by what had happened to speak. Finally, Lydia whispered, “Quon, what have you done?” Her raspy voice sounded deafening in the silence.

Wong stood shaking, his hands quivering, sparks dancing off both his metal and flesh fingers. His eyes were completely vacant, staring at the charred remains of his former rival, his mind a million miles away struggling to come to grips with his actions. Bridge had seen that look before. It was the haunted look of innocence being snuffed out, the tell-tale sign of someone who had never killed before realizing that they’d taken another human life. Bridge had seen it all too often in the riots, once the fever of the mob mentality had worn off and the full weight of sin had come crashing into focus. Everyone reacted differently. Some got colder, accepting murder all too easily, and those were the ones Bridge feared. Wong, however, was not one of those as evidenced by his tears. Somewhere in the boy’s fragile psyche, a torrent of emotions was building, and Bridge really didn’t want to be there when those emotions broke to the surface. Whoever was around when that happened would be lucky if Wong only hurt himself.

Wong fell to his knees. Lydia walked towards him slowly, repeating like a mantra, “Quon, what have you done?” She completely ignored the blackened resting-place of her former colleague. Janicki followed her, but his interest lay in the remains. He ignored Wong completely, picking up the melted cyberarm and examining the dust.

“That’s amazing!” he exclaimed. “It’s completely ashed, even the dirt and bones are gone. The temperatures, the energy required to do that is insane!” He seemed to be speaking to Bridge who ignored him in disgust. These people were crazy. Bridge stared down at the sinkhole, at the coldly calculating scientist picking at the ashes and somewhere in the back of his head a seed of an idea began to germinate. Not even consciously aware of what he was thinking, he let it sit in the back of his mind growing of its own volition. “One would need to heat bone for five minutes straight at over 900 Celsius to ash bone like this and he did it in seconds! Do you know what this means?”

Bridge scowled. “That you are a sick fucker?”

Janicki waved a hand dismissively. “Bah, Rolfsberg was a cock. If it wasn’t Wong he pissed off, it would have been one of us eventually. Besides, Wong is right, his math was weak. He couldn’t even break down Wong’s force field. The most interesting thing he managed to come up with was the mana engine’s casing, and I would have gotten around to that eventually. I’d better take this.” He indicated the cyberarm. “Wouldn’t want someone finding the engine when we leave.”

“You geeks going somewhere?”

“Yes, Mr. Bri… Bridge,” he replied. “That’s why you’re here. We’ve painted ourselves into a very tight corner and we need someone with your particular skillset to provide us with an exit strategy.”

Bridge was about to reply angrily when he heard Wong stammer to life. “He kept pushing me,” the kid mumbled. “He wouldn’t stop, you saw him. He attacked me first. He attacked first. I need to sit down.” Lydia had reached him by now and was guiding him to an awkward tumble back onto his bottom. His legs didn’t seem able to support his weight anymore. “You saw it, right, Lydia? You saw him attack me?” Lydia nodded sadly. “He just wouldn’t leave me alone, had to keep egging me on. I couldn’t let him hurt me, could I?” A frightened look came into his eyes. “You won’t tell Balfour, will you?”

“I’m going to have to tell him, Quon,” Lydia replied in a matronly tone. “We’re all in this together, and he needs to know what happened so he can decide what to do about it.”

“You don’t think he’ll take my engine away, do you? He can’t give it to me then just take it away when I make one little mistake.”

“You killed Rolfsberg, Quon. That’s not a little mistake.”

Bridge cut in angrily. “Look around you, lady. There’s not one goddamn body left in this place. Did you kill them all like Rolfsberg?” Wong flinched at the mention of his dead colleague’s name. “There’s supposed to be what… 20, 30,000 people in this part of Boulder? Where are? Are those ghosts I saw REALLY ghosts?”

“They’re… gone,” was all she said. “We really must be getting to the Center. Balfour will explain it all.” She stood and offered a hand down to Wong. “Quon, are you going to come with us?”

“Can I just stay here for a little while, Lydia? I have to… I have to think. I… I need to be alone, ok?”

She didn’t seem pleased, but she relented with a sigh. “Ok, Quon, we won’t force you. We aren’t like… him. But if we call you, you need to come, ok?” He nodded meekly, wiping the long streaks of tears from his face. “Shall we go, Bridge?”

“I think we’d better.” Bridge was all too ready to find out what the fuck was going on with these geeks. Lydia collected Janicki and his melted trophy and led them to the car.

Go to Chapter 17.0

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