Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Know Circuit - Epilogue - Part 1.0

January 4, 2029
1:22 a.m.

Their escape plan had worked, better than Bridge could have hoped. All five of the technomancers had made it out of Boulder without being pursued. Bridge’s group switched cars a few times on the way to the Naturalist compound, sending each abandoned car away on autopilot from where they’d abandoned it. Bud was extremely put out by the surprise guests, even more so when he learned that Bridge had not found his missing recruiters, and the unwanted guests had been responsible for the recruiters’ deaths. Bridge managed to talk him down from shooting the whole lot, but it was close.

Once tempers had calmed, Bridge laid out the entire scenario. He explained who the technomancers were, what they had done and what Bridge planned to do with them. Rather than try to lie his way through it, he told Bud the whole truth. Though every additional person that knew the skinny endangered the whole conspiracy, Bridge figured he could need Bud’s help in the future. Any little lie would jeopardize that future relationship.

As the plan was laid out, the elderly naturalist stared at Bridge with bemused shock before flashing a begrudged smile. “You are the craziest sumbitch I think I’ve ever run into in all my years,” he admitted. “But goddamn, if it works…”

Bridge sat back with a smug smile plastered across his mug, much too satisfied with his own cleverness. Bud leaned over the table and laid a firm hand on Bridge’s wrist, like a massive anchor tying Bridge’s inflated ego to the earth. “You’re going to get a lot of people killed, you know. This thing… it’s going to get people killed. You better make sure it’s worth it.”

Bridge nodded grimly. “It’s worth it.”

Later that evening, he had an even more important conversation. Bridge led Aristotle out into the crisp night air after dinner, making nervous small talk while avoiding looking at his bodyguard. Aristotle let Bridge chatter on for as long as he wanted, oblivious to the silent tears in the larger man’s eyes. Having finally worked up the courage, Bridge stopped along the isolated trail and put a hand on Aristotle’s arm. Everything important that he needed to say was already reflected in the big man’s coal black eyes. “You know she’s dead, right?” Aristotle nodded. “There wasn’t nothing you or me could have done about that. You know that, right?” Again, a nod.

Bridge laid out the whole story, sparing no details. The culpability of the technomancers, the reasons Bridge had brought them safely out of Boulder, the visitation with Lalasa, Bridge repeated the entire story to his stoic bodyguard. Aristotle’s value to Bridge might not have been as vital as Bud’s, but Bridge needed his friend to understand, to come with him. Bridge couldn’t even admit to himself why. The unspoken need galled Bridge, and he tried to make excuses to himself that he dismissed as soon as he thought them. Whether from guilt or affection, all Bridge would admit for sure was that he needed Aristotle. “You can’t retaliate against them, brother,” Bridge finished, emphasizing the obvious. “I need them.”

Aristotle wiped his eyes. “I realize exactly what this means,” he stated without emotion. “I will not harm a hair on their head. You have my word.” They stood apart in tense silence for long minutes. “I need… can you go back? I would prefer to be alone with this for a bit. I need to process.”

Bridge nodded and headed up the trail back towards the compound. Aristotle’s steely voice stopped him. “One day, there’s going to be a reckoning for the things you’ve done here, you know that?”

Bridge didn’t turn, concealing the hollowed stare that broadcast his guilt in mile-high glowing letters. “Don’t I know it, brother.” He walked back to the compound with a soldier’s eyes following his every step.

Go to Epilogue - Part 2.0

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