March 6, 2029
10:45 p.m.

The interior of the train erupted with the sounds of destruction. Bridge felt the gritty floor on his palms, heard the screech of twisting metal and was blinded by the white-hot light of the explosion. The tell-tale tinkle of flying glass and shards of metal shrapnel sang all around him, but he was unharmed. The world shook and shuddered as the train's momentum fought with the perpendicular thrust of the rocket's force, the wheels squealing as they strained to stay on the tracks. From his vantage point on the floor, Bridge could see almost nothing but the fire. It danced a jig over the invisible shield Mu had managed to throw up. Unharmed by the shrapnel thanks to the shield, Bridge nevertheless was unable to draw in a breath, as the fantastic heat smothered the air within the impossible shell.

Bridge could tell the shield was expanding, the fire growing more distant with each second until it finally broke through, exposing the blackness of the night sky. All told, Mu had managed to cover Bridge, Aristotle, Stonewall, Cierra and himself. Goyo, Hernandez and C@L@C@'s holder had been on the other side of the train, but were still alive, as the rocket had hit the front of the train. A gaping hole, its edges still glowing with heat, was all that was left of the front quarter of the train, including half of the conductor's compartment. Three of the minor Shotcallers were in various stages of dying around the car, and Bridge catalogued the parts of at least two others scattered around the floor. The lifeless eye of Miguel De Silva stared back at Bridge, a mute accusation from the past igniting a fire of memories and sensations of Boulder in Bridge. He lay on the floor longer than he needed to, staring into that accusing gaze, unable to tear himself away from the grotesque half-face that held him entranced. Finally, as the train drifted to a jerky rest, he stood, with Aristotle's help.

"You all right, boss?" the big man said, dusting off Bridge's jacket. Bridge kept staring into the dead man's face. "Boss?"

Bridge snapped to attention at Aristotle's inquiry. He nodded silently and began to take inventory. Stonewall had leapt into action as soon as he could reach his feet, checking on Cierra and Hernandez first, then reaching to help Goyo up. The older man slapped Stonewall's hand away angrily. A raging gash ran down Goyo's cheek, staining his neck and collar with blood. Countless rips in the right sleeve of his shirt bled with less ferocity. One giant chunk of metal the size of a finger stuck in his cane. He started as he caught a glimpse of his bodyguard's lifeless body. Goyo knelt painfully next to the corpse and kissed it gently on the forehead before making the sign of the cross over the body, a ritual he seemed to do without enthusiasm. Bridge sat back on the seat, which promptly collapsed under his weight.

Cierra had rushed to administer to the wounds of Manny Man, one of the minor Shotcallers, who had taken a piece of shrapnel in the left shoulder blade. She worked quickly, with the precision and confidence of someone trained in emergency medicine. All told, six passengers were dead, including two Shotcallers. Mu leaned heavily against the wall in the front corner of the car, a horrified look on his face as he gaped at one of the bodies at his feet. Bridge recognized that look, survivor's guilt plainly eroding the technomancer's confidence. Bridge got up and went over to him.