Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Know Circuit - Epilogue - Part 2.0

Epilogue - Part 1.0

The next few months were hellishly busy. Bridge had gone back to LA, sending each of the technomancers to separate locations scattered around the country. His instructions were clear. They were to meet in the flesh only if absolutely necessary. They could live anywhere they chose so long as it was away from other people. The five founders would be known as the Council of Five. The Council would meet regularly using a nest of hidden GlobalNet sub-channels created by the mana engine. They would continue their personal experiments separately, but any spells they created would be freely shared amongst the Council. Within a month Carl, Lydia and Wong had set up a hidden virtual city online, accessible only to the Council and of course, Bridge, the Council’s silent partner.

The video of the dragon battle had been seeded liberally by Michael Freeman’s wonder program. It made international news, replayed over and over by local, national and global news networks. The imaginary journo Sanderson Fielding was an overnight media sensation. The corporate owned networks searched high and low for an interview with the reclusive reporter, as much for the ratings as to target him for elimination. Bridge continued sending dispatches from the phantom journalist, spinning a fantastical narrative of a rogue freelancer pursued into hiding by a corporate conspiracy. Fielding’s investigations into the technomancers helped create the cult itself, as hackers, cyberpunks, geeks and young scientists around the world sought to transform themselves into powerful wizards.

The Order of the Technomancers became a real entity, a myth given form. Bridge was the secret brain behind the power, setting up the organization’s structure as a franchise system. He divided the world into five regions, each made up of isolated cells of mages completely unaware of the existence of other franchises, and certainly unaware of Bridge’s participation. Each of the Council was in charge of one region’s cells. They were allowed to recruit a small number of neophytes, who upon passing the showy initiation rites would be implanted with mana engines. The law of the technomancers stated that there could only be 100 mages in existence at any time. Since the new technomancers only knew of their recruiter, the Council and a few others, and only met with the Council online by petition, the lie held. Bridge envisioned a lot more than 100 technomancers, of course. But that belief, that faith that they were one of a special few gave the technomancers a confidence and some much-needed arrogance. They were discouraged from working in teams for extended periods of time. It became quite clear early on that the power of the engine inflated egos dangerously, and there were incidents. The battle between Rolfsberg and Wong was small compared to some of the blowups in those first few months. The technomancers were encouraged to roam free and roam alone, selling glowbugs to whoever could pay. The Council got a percentage, and Bridge got a cut of that. The engine’s GlobalNet sub-network allowed them to move money around at will, and Bridge began amassing a large war chest.

Every technomancer was given one unbreakable covenant. Their mana engine could not fall into corporate hands. If in danger of death, a technomancer was instructed to destroy his mana engine even if it meant destroying himself, disintegrating the engine at the cellular level by implosion. Killing another technomage was frowned upon, but if it happened, the victorious mage must make every effort to retrieve and destroy the loser’s engine.

Bridge took advantage of his silent position with the technomancers. Aristotle had begun to withdraw from their arrangement almost immediately, and Bridge suspected he was drinking pretty heavily. Needing a more reliable bodyguard, Bridge “hired” one of the newly recruited technomancers, a lanky Chinese-American kid who had renamed himself as Mu. Just the rumor of Mu’s presence decreased the drama around Bridge significantly to the extent that he began to forget what a beatdown felt like. Once the Paulie situation had been resolved, he almost began to feel safe.

It wouldn’t last, of course. Bridge had put himself on a collision course with some very powerful forces. There wasn’t a corporation in the world that wasn’t after just one sample of the mana engine, and most would kill to get it. The glowbugging operations took off slowly at first, but as the rumors about the technomancers spread, business boomed. Chronosoft LGL very quickly passed a law outlawing the practice, announced smugly at a press conference by Los Angeles mayor and Chronosoft puppet Arturo Soto. Bridge grinned madly every time he thought about the trouble that he must have been causing Chronosoft Utility’s bottom line. For them to have gone to the trouble of outlawing the practices of an organization whose existence couldn’t be officially confirmed meant they were worried, if not outright panicky.

A reckoning was looming. Bridge would need all his skills, all his connections to emerge intact. At times, he wasn’t even sure the outcome would be worth it. Glowbugging was damaging the LGL system, chipping away in small chunks at one of the pillars of its social power, its death grip monopoly on energy. It might take a hundred years, but as the price of energy tended towards zero, the system’s power over commerce evaporated. The technomancer’s could hide money from the banking system completely. Control over the flow of money, over liquidity itself was no longer the exclusive domain of the LGL’s. Money by itself was useless, but money in liquid form was power. The technomancers, used correctly by someone as devious as Bridge, could whittle away at the entire LGL system, one sliver at a time. He cared nothing about the LGL’s existence or survival. If his efforts destroyed the system, he would laugh, if not, he would use the system to his advantage. He gave no thought to what would take its place were it to fall. The system was corrupt, as amoral as he had ever been at his worst, but more importantly to Bridge, it had crossed him more than enough. Surely something else would be better than the shiny-happy face of corporate dominance that lied with every collective breath. If the American Dream had been a sanitized version of “I got mine,” the LGL version was “You’ll take what we give you and like it.”

For Artemis Bridge, that was a challenge he couldn’t refuse.


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