I tag Blue/Horse. As collectives go, mine is connected, with mobile journalists in almost every urban center on the planet. I'd be denied them if Cecilio Goncz hadn't slipped me a communication safeguard. Whatever jamming agent he's anticipating would probably block even a prosumer implant like mine. Whatever his reasons, they've left me a lifeline to the rest of the world. Cortical implant translates my eye movements into text, lets me interact however I need to with Blue/Horse. Doesn't suck up much bandwidth, little discrete 56k bursts. Five minutes later, my man in Anatolia gives me as close a rundown as he can before linking me with one of our editors in Halifax:
Yonge Street Ali. Born Ali Buryäk, maybe forty years earlier. Grew up in Ankara at the cusp of The Troubles, when the radicals were just gaining real traction. Long line of soldiers, the Buryäks, going all the way back to Atatürk. Secular, the way the French used to be: rigid, nationalist. When the JDP was put out of government and the army stepped in, Ali's dear poppa was apparently leading the charge. No one anticipated the severity of the riots that followed, nor that of the internal conflict that chased it. Ali came up in one of a dozen paramilitaries that succeeded the army: nationalists every bit as zealous as the religious fundamentalists they clashed with. As the conflict slogged on, and The Troubles turned into a full-scale civil war, Ali Buryäk established himself as some kind of logistical wizard, securing more arms even as his budget shrank. By the time he was twenty, he'd made connections with everyone from the Kurdish Workers Party to the Azeri Republican Front. Things get fuzzy around when Ankara falls, though.
Our editor in Halifax tells a less glorious tale, two years down the line. This one is of Peg-Leg Ali, who limped off a refugee boat in Nova Scotia alongside a troupe of disillusioned veterans. Set themselves up as a local syndicate before being rounded up by the RCMP. Turned up, alone, in Toronto, after a seven year stretch in Kingston Penitentiary. Started quickly working both ends of the longest street in the world: spreading mysterious wealth around the suits at One Yonge Street, then moving guns at the other end, out by Jane and Finch. Somewhere between Halifax and Toronto, Ali Buryäk had his leg replaced. Got a smart haircut. All the right implants, and even better connections. Theoretically hasn't picked up a gun in years, even to sell. These things just sort of move around him at his behest. When Alaska wanted out of the Union, it was his munitions that somehow found their way into secessionists' hands. No linear connection, of course, but The Word is The Word, and that is: Yonge Street Ali makes guns happen. Whenever, wherever. He's become one of the lowest profile high-end gunrunners in North America. Lives in one of those mobile low-orbit habitats. Hyper-exclusive. Never know where he'll be next week. Total anonymity, absolute freedom of movement.
Must be a nice way to live.
Especially compared to Oakland, Northern Republic of California. Growth market here, by all accounts. But not without risk. My contact at University of Michigan says Ali also armed the U.S.-backed Republica Libre party during their overthrow of Los Angeles, a coup that wiped away the old confederation of criminal cantons -- including that of Cecilio Goncz, my host and father. Not to mention Montoya Dred, who even now, twitches and shudders, almost foaming at the mouth from his Pilkner's Condition. So how is here here, now, without Goncz's teeth on his throat?
"Yonge Street," Goncz hails. "What it is."
"What it will be," Ali says, sliding into a chair opposite. He's got a soft face, lines around his eyes like he smiles a lot. He nods at Dred. "How you doing, Monty?"
"Duh-don't be fucking calling me that, yuh-yeeeew you..."
"Play nice," Goncz warns.
"Fuck you, CeCe." Rain of white spit arcs across the table when Dred talks. "And you tuh-too, fuckface."
"Still a lover, Monty?" Ali smiles. "You still talk to me like a lover. Would that help, maybe? If I gave you a little?"
"Fuh-fuh-fuuuuuuuuuuck yuh-yuh-yuh --"
"Don't be giving yourself a heart attack," Goncz says. "We're all friends here."
"Friends? Wuh-with him?"
"Oh yeah," Ali says. "Best friends. Especially today." For the first time, he turns his attention to me. "We haven't been introduced."
"Don't worry about him," Goncz says coolly.
"Yuh-yeah," Dred chuckles. "He's a peach, that one. Nothing to worry about at all."
Ali shrugs, folds his hands on the table. "If that's what you say, that's what you say."
"Do you have them?" Dred snaps.
Ali sniffs, looks slightly stricken. "Poor form, Monty. Whatever happened to etiquette? I've been sitting here five minutes already, no one's offered me a cup of coffee, a glass of water, not even a half decent hello, how's things?"
"Oh," Monty says. "I'm sorry. A cup of coffee? Maybe I could fetch you some water? How about wine. You like a little vino? A nice red? Nah, it's hot out today, you'd like a nice white. Maybe some of that good Sonoma? Stay right here, let me get it for you. No, wait, what am I saying -- here, let me get one of the fine waitresses at this wonderful establishment that is so obviously NOT a fucking glorified fruit stand in the middle of this dinkhole Fourth World fucking republic to bring you a glass of finely purified water in a crystal fluted glass, you screaming piece of --"
"Monty," Goncz growls, and Dred deflates. Goncz waves over the Okie with the coffee pot, takes off his shades, showing off those eerie nictitating eyes that belong on some kind of dead animal. "Let's get the man a drink, then get down to it."
Which is exactly when the other shoe drops, and America lowers its foot onto the neck of Northern California.