November 8, 2028
The escape plan was a simple application of misdirection played out on a grand scale. Bridge needed to get six people out of the most watched city in the world without revealing their escape route. Between the press, the National Guard soldiers and Legios Corporation goons, and the unknowable number of government and private satellites likely trained on the city, the city was under constant observation. When the dome was dropped, the electrical dead zone around the city would go with it, and all those eyeballs would focus on Boulder unless he gave those eyes something else to see.
Getting out on foot was out of the question. Even if they could manage to stay unseen, the weather and distance would take too much out of them. Wong had not yet gotten enough control over the flight equations to carry other people, so flying was out of the question. A single car driving out of the city would be spotted within minutes. Bridge wasn’t confident enough in the mana engine’s ability to hide an entire car from satellites. While Bridge spent the day waiting for Aristotle’s grandmother, the technomancers gathered every car they could find, driving them to the edge of the dome facing outwards along six different exit points. Wong meanwhile modified his soccer AI, creating a sophisticated driving intelligence that could maneuver one car to a predetermined destination. If the car encountered an obstruction, it would transform into a giant golem robot like the car that had attacked the Legios Ranger on the journey to Boulder. Somewhere in the design phase, Bridge began referring to their abilities as spells.
Balfour scoffed. “Spells? I really think you are taking this wizard thing to a ridiculous conclusion.”
“You’re goddamn right,” Bridge countered. “And you had better learn to get used to it if we’re going to sell this technomancer thing. You don’t write programs, you create spells.”
“Because the church cornered the market on miracles. You have to make people believe in magic, because belief makes people stupid. Stupid is predictable.” Balfour appeared to want to argue, but as his mind chewed over the concept, his expression changed, first to one of confusion then acceptance. From that moment forward, he relished his role as the Alpha, first of the technomancers.
As sunlight broke on Bridge’s second day under the dome, they stood ready. Bridge, Janicki, Lydia and Balfour chose an unremarkable station wagon as their escape vehicle. They stood beside it as it lay idling at the intersection of Canyon Boulevard and Broadway surrounded by four lanes of cars pointed towards the western mountains. Six other major roads out of the domed area sat clogged with cars stacked three and four wide, each controlled by Wong’s spell.
The thorny problem of gathering up Carl was left to Wong. The youngest technomancer had been sullen but agreeable during the entire preparation. Bridge could tell that Rolfsberg’s death still weighed heavily on him, despite his enthusiasm for the programming challenge. Wong’s task was perhaps the most dangerous. The second the dome dropped, he was to send an encrypted message to Carl, giving him the details of the plan before joining the illusionist in executing their part. Balfour assured Bridge that the message would not be intercepted or decoded, another of the fringe benefits of the mana engine. Of course, they couldn’t be sure that Carl would still be alive to receive the message. They weren’t even sure when they would be emerging from the dome. Days, hours, weeks or minutes might have passed since Bridge had entered, and the message Carl had sent regarding his death might be genuine. If Carl was alive, Wong was to find him, but if there was no answer, he was to haul ass out of there, meeting the other technomancers at the Naturalist compound.
Bridge was unsure if Bud would allow him back into the compound with five new fugitives. Once the aging Naturalist found out that these fugitives were responsible for the deaths of his people, he’d probably be even less inclined to let them stay. But it was the only place Bridge had. All he would need would be a day, just a day to gather his resources and get them all to somewhere else, somewhere out of Legios territory. He wasn’t quite sure where they would end up but he was making it up as he went along.
“Are we ready?” Bridge asked. He took another hard look at his new associates, the tiniest bit of apprehension twisting his guts for the briefest of moments. But his course was set. These were the cards he’d dealt himself. Time to play them.
The group nodded. Bridge climbed behind the wheel, as he was the only one who knew where they were going. “Then let’s set it off,” he said through gritted teeth. Balfour gestured and a ball of lightning shot into the air, then split into hundreds of tiny fingers of electricity that shot off in all directions. The cars surrounding Bridge each got a jolt, and they started in tandem, a roaring grumble of automotive thunder. The first line of cars six lengths ahead jittered into gear and began to ease off the line.
Bridge turned his head to the southeast, gazing towards the Engineering Center. At first, he couldn’t see the tower over the trees and intervening buildings. But then he heard it, the crackling of energy gathering, building to some explosive crescendo. The Engineering Center had too much evidence of the technomancers’ presence. The cloud generator alone would be enough to sink them, even though no one outside of this group would have been able to decipher its uses for years. But the nanotech constructors, glowbugs and other experiments would be too valuable, too important to the upcoming investigations to let it stand. The technomancers knew they had to keep those things to themselves, at least for now. So rather than just shutting down the cloud generator and removing the dome, they needed to remove all evidence of their passing.
The technomancers turned the cloud generator’s energies back in on itself. They would implode the device, and the resultant implosion would wipe out the entire Engineering Center complex. Just as Wong’s fireball had disintegrated Rolfsberg’s body, every iota of physical evidence of their experiments in the Center would end up as ash.
Bridge finally located the Center by the pillar of light. It began to blink, to fade, falling away towards its source in a cascade of blinding light. The dome, deprived of its support, evaporated like the morning fog. All Bridge could see was light, a stunning white light that engulfed his vision. He squeezed his eyes shut and the world blinked.
Go to Chapter 19.33
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
November 8, 2028