Under the Amoral Bridge - Chapter 3

August 29, 2028
6:33 p.m.

The Arsenal was one of the first new clubs built after the riots. A neon-saturated marvel of ultra modern design, it contained a separate dance club, concert hall, sports bar and the requisite VIP lounge upstairs. Awash in soccer brands and memorabilia, the club was lit by huge video screens showing live and archived game footage from around the world. Run by former L.A. Galaxy footballer Crispin Twiggs, the Arsenal acted as a front for prostitution, chip drugs and loan-sharking. Twiggs had been expelled from the game of soccer for gambling, but his public image had been somewhat rehabilitated by the outward success of the Arsenal. The vague whisperings of the club’s illegal side businesses did not slow its trade in the slightest. It was the place to be.

Getting into the club regularly was difficult for those not already affiliated with professional soccer. The beautiful people were allowed in, of course, especially the celebrities and their hangers on. It was especially popular with the nouveau riche Latino celebrities that had come to be the face of the rebuilt Los Angeles. GlobalNet actors like Richie Delgado and tella novella divas like Anise Vargas were the face of the LGL’s success. Bridge had worked for almost a month to get through the bouncers, until he finally found one who needed a connection with a black market cyberware doc. Bridge had hooked up Benny and Benny had returned the favor by giving him access to Twiggs. The Arsenal’s initial success was illusory, and by its second month in business, Twiggs was up to his eyeballs in debt. Bridge had given Twiggs the in with a new set of investors, the kind that wanted their investments kept quiet. Once Bridge had made that connection, he became a regular fixture, schmoozing his way into the VIP.

The night promised to be a busy one. The Arsenal always had its fair share of prospective clients, and Bridge was practically an unofficial employee. He knew the bartender’s routines, their schedules, their likes and their guilty secrets. A night of fitful sleep had left him slightly off-kilter, the whole cab ride a dozy daze. Aristotle tried to engage him in conversation but took the hint when Bridge showed little interest in discussing the difference between determinism and existentialism, lapsing into an indifferent silence. Bridge hoped Angie’s leaker showed up early. The thought of another beatdown from Nicky’s boys was going to drive him to distraction until he’d taken care of the problem. He’d managed to cover up most of the bruises on his face with Skin in a Tube™, but the fat lip was a problem. Of course, knowing the Arsenal, the leaker wouldn’t be allowed in. Hackers rarely showed great personal hygiene, and even less style, both of which were essential to mingle with the Arsenal’s beautiful people. Bridge managed it with charm and wit and impeccable attire, despite his average looks.

The club was already packed, even at this early hour. Though not the only club on the street, it was certainly the most popular, with a line of supplicants running down the block waiting eagerly to be judged worthy by the bouncers. There were actually two entrances. One bouncer waved the regulars in through the front where the paparazzi could photo their grand entrances, while the uninitiated waited in a line running down the street. Most would wait in vain. Bridge made for the front entrance, flashing a smile at the bouncer. The bouncer stopped him cold with a meaty hand in Bridge’s chest. “And just where do you think you’re going, luv?” The bouncer’s voice was thick with an urban British accent.

Bridge appraised the man. He was big. Not Aristotle big, much more of a lanky big, like a soccer player. The hand placed on Bridge’s chest was strong. He didn’t look like a bouncer, most of whom were gigantic slabs of beef. The face was rugged, with a crooked nose that indicated it had been broken at least once. “I was just going inside,” Bridge replied with an amiable smile. “I’ve got business to discuss.”

“Right now, your business is with me. Who are you, then?”