November 2, 2028
01:20 a.m.

“Come on, Bridge, I know you know a guy,” the lithe Puerto Rican/Chinese vlogger whined to Bridge, pointing a finger directly in his face. Bridge just leaned back in his seat with that bemused smile of his, confirming the girl’s assumption without a word. “I just need the hookup, yo!”

“Look here, Anna,” Bridge said, intentionally using her real name, knowing that would get her goat. The smoldering stare and arched brows of her 16-year old face was a minor victory for him, a sign that he had gained the upper hand. “Sorry, Ms. Angst. What you are asking for is… well, it’s pretty goddamn impossible.”

“Bullshit, Bridge. You’re the bomb. I know you got Fez that in with Raging D-Bags. Did you see his numbers on that story? Cuz went stratospheric, yo!” She was trying damn hard to butter him up and if he went in for smoking hot jailbait, he’d have bit. She had the flawless skin of a teenager with the taut body of someone who spent their nights chasing celebrities in limos to get that one hit video clip. When not busy hounding celebs, she worked the crime beat. Bridge wondered when she ever got the time to go to high school. He figured her for smart enough to pass without ever seeing the inside of a classroom though, so her attendance was likely immaterial.

“You’re asking me to get the urine of a pop icon with more security than the fucking Mayor. And trust me; the mayor’s got a metric fuckton of security. All so you can break the story that she’s pregnant, which by the way, she may not even be pregnant. What do you do if she’s not?” It wasn’t the most disgusting thing Bridge had ever hooked up for someone. But it would be damned hard to find a bodyguard who not only had access, but was willing to risk his job to get the sample.

Of course, Bridge knew a guy. He’d gotten Rick the job with Ms. Shawnee when Rick was at his absolute lowest, two steps from getting his hands chopped off by the recently deceased Nicky Sharver. Rick owed him a whole lot more than just two working flesh hands. But Bridge knew better than to give in too easy. After all, a good businessman set the price as high as the market would bear.

“If she ain’t preggers, at least I got the scoop on that too. It just won’t get as many hits. Anything with Shawnee’s name trends upwards, yo. My advertisers like dem trends.” Bridge put on his best thinking face, selling his effort for all it was worth. Angst was smart enough to recognize the game. “You DO know somebody!”

Bridge pretended to give up with a sigh. Leaning over the table and pulling her closer with a conspiratorial whisper, he said, “All right, I know a guy. But this is major big-time bad mojo for him if he gets caught. You have got to be completely anonymous on this one. I mean it, no names, nothing more specific than sources close to the subject.” Finally, he leaned back, his dance reaching the climactic flourish. “But it’s going to cost you.”

“Yo, I pays, brau. You know I pays.” She did pay, and more reliably than most of his repeat clients. Value was established, and the two parties began haggling out the particulars. As he finalized the details, he noticed a figure over Ms. Angst’s shoulder, the towering bulk of the ex-footballer Paulie. The giant spotted Bridge. He aimed his shiny new cybernetic fingers at Bridge in the shape of a pistol, fired a pretend shot and headed for the door with a predatory smirk on his lips. Time was running out on that debt.