THE BRIDGE OF THE TUMBLEWEED
“Man, this took for EV-er,” May says, rolling her head back. She’s right; the Tumbleweed only runs at half-speed currently. But they have now arrived at the periphery of Scar City.
“Sorry Philo, I’m sure this is scenery you were not looking forward to seeing again anytime soon, having quit the Casino and all,” Sam says.
“It’s okay,” Philo says. “May reprogrammed some things so I now read as a human on the Casino’s scanners. So I don’t think the Casino people will bother me.”
“Unless they get a look at you directly,” May says. “For that we’d need a really big square wig or something.”
“True. I will maintain a low profile,” Philo says. “Meanwhile, I think I shall tap into the Casino surveillance systems to see what has been updated since I was last here.” He pulls a cord from his suit pocket, plugs it into the side of his head, and then plugs the other end into the console in front of him. He crosses his arms and waits.
The Tumbleweed pulls to a stop and hovers near a rock outcropping. An enormous canyon cuts into the ground ahead, growing wider and wider as it approaches the horizon. Scar City sits on the bottom and sides of the canyon, hence its name. In the late afternoon haze, neon lights can be seen flashing from the assorted buildings in the main part of the city. Some of the buildings are just light projections on the rocks, to make the city more exciting-looking.
Dr. Mangrove comes in, pulling on a lumpy sweater. “Well, I’m off,” he says. “Time to go find some repair materials.”
“Don’t get picked up by any more goons looking for Sam,” Rebecca says. “This is your captain speaking.” Rebecca is more concerned with her father than with protecting Sam, who will need to take care of himself. She didn’t ask for him to wind up on her ship.
“Yes dear,” Dr. Mangrove says. He straightens his spectacles and is gone.
Sam turns to Rebecca and smiles. “I think it’s time for a visit to the Casino. Come with me. There’s something you should see.”
Rebecca looks doubtful. “With all the people looking for you?”
“It’s a huge place. They won’t know I’m here. It’ll be fun. Promise.”
“Okay fine,” Rebecca says. “Feller, May, keep tabs on the communications channels. If you pick up anything interesting, let us know.”
“Alrighty,” Feller says, and pops open a soda.
Philo pulls the cord from his head. “If you need cash, let me know and I’ll fix a Blackjack table for you,” he says over his shoulder.
“Uh, thanks,” Sam says.
Feller, May and Philo are left alone on the bridge. Philo plugs back in, and after a few minutes, he says, “There it is again.”
“What, Philo?” May asks.
“These digits. There is a series of digits that seem to have nothing to do with the surrounding code, but they repeat themselves throughout the system. It’s as if someone planted them there.”
“Huh,” Feller says. “Send em over and we’ll see if we recognize anything.”
Neptune Road ©2014 Betsy Streeter