Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 17.0

November 7, 2028
Time Unknown

The three got in the car and drove north, leaving Wong alone with his thoughts. Bridge took one last look back at the kid who had resumed floating over the field. Wong had retrieved the metal cocoon from the hole it had made in the dorm building and was busy recreating his players with a glazed expression. Bridge turned his attention back to the pair in the front seat.

“So how were you guys planning to leave? There’s like an army of Legios Corp cops surrounding the town, and just as many National Guard on top of that. Not to mention the horde of journos that swarmed on this fucking place like locusts the minute that news chopper went down. Did your buddy Carl do that?”

Lydia exchanged worried glances with Janicki. “We’re not sure. Communication with Carl has been somewhat sporadic. The only time it really worked well was when he was near the dome. What did he do to the news chopper?”

Lydia glanced back over her shoulder from the driver’s seat to watch Bridge make a poofing motion with his fingers. “Poof. Gone. Big flaming dragon knocked it out of the sky. Well, I assume that’s what he did. They saw a flaming dragon and they weren’t heard from again. Legios refused to talk about it. They actually don’t have clue fucking one what to do by the way. They’ve flipped between quarantining the area like some kind of outbreak and suggesting it’s some kind of a terrorist invasion.”

Janicki began asking questions intently. “We can’t see out much past the perimeter, but you said the National Guard was out. Why haven’t they just driven a battalion of tanks up to the dome and blasted it?”

Bridge returned his gaze with an expression of irritated confusion. “Do you really not know the effect you’re having out there? No, I guess not. Nothing works around the dome. No electricity, no cell, no GlobalNet, nothing. It’s the Stone Age. Our driver refused to get within three miles of this place because he said his car would just stop working. National Guard was using abandoned cars to build a cordon. No tanks, no Gunheds.”

“Does the power drain out gradually or does everything just blink out? Are there explosive effects when you pierce this dead zone?”

“Well, the jack in my head didn’t explode so I’m guessing shit just stops working. But I didn’t get to experiment what with being more concerned about not getting my ass shot off.”

The car had looped around past what appeared to be a basketball arena and an astronomical observatory. Lydia pulled the car to a stop at a stop sign, checking both directions for non-existent traffic. Bridge couldn’t resist needling her. “Why are you stopping? There’s no traffic.”

She smacked herself in the head and scoffed. “Duh. I know, I know. Force of habit. This intersection is usually crawling with bikes and kids, even this late. Early. Whatever.” She steered the car into a right turn, aiming it northward a little distance before coming to another stop sign. She ignored this one, turning the car right again. Bridge made a note of the street name, Regent Drive. He was lost without his GlobalNet maps. Knowing the street name would at least give him some bearing if he needed it. They continued on around Regent as it curved northward. Across an open field, Bridge got his first glimpse of the Engineering Center.

Even without the transformation these geeks had effected on the city, the complex would have been impressive. Made of the same brick exteriors as the rest of the buildings he’d seen, the Engineering Center was a striking series of constructs with severely angled roofs arranged in stepped tiers reaching towards the night sky. The roofs all seemed to either oppose or compliment the tallest structure, a tower over five stories high in the center of the complex. It was this feature that Bridge noticed the most.

At first, he wasn’t sure what was wrong with the tower. Bridge’s eyes seemed to slide off the building, as if he couldn’t focus his vision correctly. As they got closer, he figured out why. The tower wasn’t just big, it was moving. Not moving exactly, it was growing. The once-flat walls that comprised the structure had what appeared to be shiny, fungus-like outgrowths that drooped down to the surrounding buildings like stalactites. Bridge was reminded of the towers of South American ant colonies he’d seen on some nature vid. The growth was glacial. Only constant observation made it noticeable, and the movement made the tower appear to vibrate ever so slightly.

From the top of the tower sprouted a pillar of light, so subtle that only as Bridge drew within a few hundred yards did he notice it. His eyes followed the pillar up as far as he could see until he realized that the light was a column of energy sustaining the dome. “I think I’m too tired to be amazed, so I’ll just ask. What are you geeks doing here? What the fuck is that?”

“That’s where it all began, Bridge. That’s the power source sustaining the dome and every other electrical device underneath it. That,” Janicki pointed with undisguised pride, “is the future of human energy.”

Go to Chapter 17.5

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