August 28, 2028
11:42 p.m.

“I know a guy,” were the only important words Artemis Bridge uttered these days. All of his conversations with those words were a carefully choreographed dance routine, each step planned out in advance with only rare deviations from his expectations. Before those words came the usual bullshit, the greetings, the give and get probing Bridge used to determine if the prospective client was a cop trying to entrap him or a legitimate person with an illegitimate need. After those words, the dance was all details, the who-is and the where-wills and all the rest of the important minutiae that would get the job done. But “I know a guy,” those were the focal point of Bridge’s life. Those words were the music that drove the dance.

Bridge didn’t yet know the well-dressed man coming across the Glitter bar towards him, but he could read the guy like a web site from the moment the sharp-dresser had entered the club. Bridge thought, “Here’s a guy that gets a little action on the side, a little weird action his girlfriend or wife won’t give him. He’s some well-heeled corporate douchebag looking for someone to help him exploit something.” The man’s bearing was all faux confidence. His suit was Armani, his job was corporate, but his bravado was a subtly tarnished facade. Bridge pegged the client at around 32, desperately hoping he was still as cool as he was in high school, but deep down all too aware that the young things gyrating wildly in the club around him had moved on to more interesting predators. He was not cool, he was not crunk, he wasn’t even hip and he sure wasn’t cyber. He ogled the pretty girls as he straightened his silk tie uncomfortably, his eyes shifting nervously from one younger alpha male to the next as he gestured for the bartender’s attention. The man’s eyes never held anything for long, except for constant predatory stares at any young female that happened by. He seemed especially interested in the girls with the cybernetic replacement limbs. ‘Must have a metal fetish,’ thought Bridge. The bartender directed the client over towards Bridge’s table with an indifferent shrug, signaling at Bridge as the client turned his back. Costello the bartender was a stand-up guy who vetted prospective clients. All he ever asked for was a bit of hard-to-get ‘70’s porn. Bridge knew a guy.

Sharp-Dressed stuck out a hand to Bridge as he approached the table, offering a handshake of dubious merit. Bridge waved off the proffered hand. “Sorry, I don’t do physical contact,” Bridge apologized. “There’s too many crazy things can be transferred by touch in this business.” Sharp-Dressed sat down quickly with a slightly offended expression, his eyes darting nervously as he straightened his jacket.

Bridge’s paranoia excuse was a valid one. The people he dealt with were often lying shitheels of the worst kind. There were nanotech listening devices that could be planted through skin-to-skin contact, contact poisons and diseases of varying lethality, and portable weapons bladed and concussive that would make perfect tools of revenge. Bridge always tried to be fair in his dealings, but that never stopped unsatisfied customers from seeking recompense of a physical nature. But those weren’t the reason he avoided physical contact. No, the real reason was that he just hated people on an almost universal basis. He hated the cloying press of humanity, the parade of simpering mongoloids that walked the face of the earth as if they owned it. He hated them for their greed, he hated them for their vices, and he hated their sweating, stinky desperation which fell off of them in waves no matter the circumstance. He hated Mr. Sharp-Dressed man here, for whatever connection this well-heeled faker wanted from Bridge.

Bridge wondered how Sharp-Dressed managed to not sweat his balls off in the intense Los Angeles heat outside, but the man showed only a thin line of perspiration on his brow. “You got a business card?” was the first question Bridge asked him. In any other environment, Bridge reckoned the man would have whipped out the bizchip before their handshake was even cold, but the potential illegality of the situation had obviously put the guy off personal revelations.