Under the Amoral Bridge - Chapter 2

August 29, 2028
1:20 a.m.

Bridge staggered into his apartment after seeing Aristotle off in a cab, figuring he wouldn't need a faux bodyguard for the walk up to his place. It was the kind of perfect shithole Los Angeles apartment made cliched in so many bad movies, a series of Spanish adobe-style buildings with too little attention paid to maintenance. He lived in a second floor apartment in the back of Celestial Gardens, close enough to the Central City area to hear the nightly gunshots, but far enough away to be out of the firing line. Most of the residents kept to themselves, especially when the police were busting the Trip labs that sprung up throughout the complex like mushrooms, and he liked it that way.

The apartment was a mess as usual. His neat dress was an agonizingly maintained illusion of impeccable style, but his natural inclination tended towards barely constrained chaos. Though he never kept food and trash and dirty dishes all over, he did tend to stack things in untidy piles, books and news faxes and snail mail all heaped in their own disorderly scheme. He rarely threw these types of things away, regardless of how outdated. Angela had kept the place even messier, as she was the type to just leave food out, like most of the hackers Bridge had ever known.

The thought of Angela brought his mind back to business. He hesitated to contact her, even though she was the person to call for information thieves. She ran a stable of freelance hackers, brokering their information like a pimp brokers whores. Angela was a damn skilled hacker in her own right, and that skill had gotten her enough money to set up her network. Not that long ago, Bridge had been one of her dogs and more besides.

They’d met back in ’26 when he was just an arrogant freelancer looking for a job. Angela had already been brokering for a year, and she saw talent in Bridge despite his careless swagger. Within six months of the first job, they’d fell into a GlobalNet relationship, just Netsex for the first few months before they ever met in the flesh. The first skin meet had ended in bed, where they stayed for a whole weekend, never even touching the crèche. Two months of that had them moving into this place together as an official couple. They were a formidable tandem on the GlobalNet, in a field dominated by solo acts. Life had been good, until the riots.

The 2027 food riots had started in mid-summer, egged on by the massive heat wave and the callous indifference of the federal budget crisis. When federal aid to the states disappeared, welfare food shipments disappeared and poor people starved. First, there was looting, then wholesale ransacking of government facilities and then it got really nasty. Police stations, already undermanned by those officers who wouldn’t strike, were assaulted by well-organized mobs. Bridge and Angela hadn’t given too shits, watching the news coverage of the violence from the safety of the crèche with bemused cynicism. So long as someone would brave the violence to deliver a pizza and their Net connection held up, he and Angela could have lasted indefinitely.

Once the mobs started taking down local switches and power grids because there was little else to destroy, the couple were forced into the open. Rather than watching dispassionately, they had to brave the mobs just to find food. Those two days had been an eternity, but seeing up close the gibbering screams of human beings dropped to the level of animal violence he’d never witnessed before had broken his spirit in ways he never expected. When the corporations stepped in to quell the riots, Bridge swore off the crèche completely. He wanted nothing more to do with that make-believe world of bits and bytes. Much to his surprise, the riots had unearthed an alarming penchant for manipulating all the worst desires of humanity to get what he needed. Rather than steal information, he found much more pleasure in aiding sleazy fuckers get together in some macabre dance of self-immolation, feeding their secret hungers for immorality while keeping himself distanced from the cesspool.