March 7, 2029
8:32 a.m.

Bridge woke with a snorting start, his head snapping up off the couch. He spent a dozy moment getting his bearings before realizing he hadn't even moved from the sitting position he'd had the previous evening. The television was playing with the sound turned off, its harsh light causing Bridge to blink with watery eyes. The place was dark, as usual, the blinds blocking the morning sun, all the lights off. He rubbed the stubble on his chin groggily, then set himself to his waking ritual. The burden of the day's upcoming agenda weighed heavily on his shoulders. He would have to make contact with Diablos' leadership, who were already openly hostile to him, and try to turn that hostility into a peaceful resolution. He put the odds somewhere between 'what the fuck are you thinking' and 'sometime after the sun explodes and kills us all.' Stonewall had a nasty habit of calling in markers at the worst times.

Once dressed and presentable, he strolled through the bedroom once more, searching in vain for Angela. The bed was unmade but cold. The lonely hum of her crèche confirmed his suspicion. She was still doing a deep run. He kissed his fingers and planted the kiss lightly on the crèche's shiny black surface before striding out.

He sent out a wireless taxi call as he walked down to Mu's apartment. He raised his hand to knock, but the door swung open with a creepy slowness before he could make contact. He had gotten used to the technomancer's flair for the dramatic. Mu's place was dark, the only light coming from a circle of candles on the barren floor. Mu sat in the lotus position, eyes closed, the only movement coming from his fingers which twinkled and danced. Bridge strode in with a cheeky grin and leaned against the wall. "OMMMMMMMM," he intoned with a giggle.

Mu didn't even flinch. "Very funny. This is actually quite comfortable. Helps me get up in my chi."

"What's with the wiggles?"

"Casting a spell. Trying to, anyway. It's not working out that well." His eyes snapped open and he stood with a fluid energetic bounce.

"What are you trying to do?"

"Learn to fly."

"You guys can do that?" Bridge asked with mock incredulity. Of course, Bridge knew that some of the technomancers could fly. His memory flashed back to the image of Wong floating over the soccer fields at the university in Boulder, his hands manipulating his team of metallic golems with the invisible strings of the mana engine's magic. But Bridge couldn't reveal his silent partnership with the technomancers' Council of Five to an initiate like Mu.

"Some of us can," Mu said and left it at that. "Time for work?"

Bridge nodded. "Yah. We got to go pick up Aristotle, then we get to the impossible task of creating peace between two mortal enemies."

Mu crossed his arms, his hands disappearing into the loose black sleeves of the hooded silk shirt he wore. The gleam of tiny golden runes up the sleeves distracted Bridge momentarily. He recognized the runes as part of the language Lydia had been developing for the technomancers. She had begun to relish the theatrical nature of a guild of wizards. Bridge found it oddly humorous that a cadre of science-y geeks took to the fanciful mythology they had created so eagerly. "Why are you still working with that guy?" Mu asked with obvious irritation in his voice.

"What guy? Aristotle? Why shouldn't I?"

"You got me, for one. For two, he's mostly piss-drunk and late."

"He's been here longer than you, and saved my ass more times than I care to count."

"But he's just a human. He can't do this." Mu flashed a hand at Bridge, a gout of flame exploding momentarily from the palm.

"Maybe not, but there's something to be said for brute force and intimidating physical presence. And he's smarter than you and me combined."

Mu gave up the argument with a shrug. "Whatever, man. It's your money."