ch. VIII, p.2

. . .

Morning sun shone bright overhead, casting the darkness from the earth as it infused the world with hues of sky blue and emerald green. Idest was no more than four hours away, and it was with a certain amount of apprehension that Sherrad led the way to the city.

‘Recording…’

It wasn’t the wound, no no, I told myself. He rotated his shoulder gently, his severed limb still held stiffly in place by hardened fibers. Had to be something else…

Drawing a troubled breath, he tried to make sense of the medical diagnostic sheet lingering in front of his eyes. The only thing he really understood was that if he didn’t get his arm taken care of, the infection would spread and he would die.

Just like I predicted... God that’s a morbid thought. He reached into his breast pocket and retrieved a cigarette and a lighter emblazoned with a raven sitting atop a cross. Must be that Romani blood, he reflected, lighting up. Grandma knew when she was going to die… Said she could feel the spirit world’s call on the wind…

But she always knew more than the rest of us did... Which means I’m probably just being dramatic.

He took a stiff drag, glowing orange tip wagging just beyond his lips. “Ahh… nice.” As he said it, smoke billowed in silky curls up from his mouth, dissipating in a gray cloud.

“Hold up,” he heard. He stopped, catching Dom’s dark eyes questioningly.

“Thought I saw something…” The middle aged soldier squinted into the trees. “Looks like it was just my imagination.”

“You worried?”

“Cautious. If we didn’t need these nanomachines for bargaining, I would have left ‘em where we found ‘em. Even people who don’t want their things don’t often take kindly to them disappearing.”

“We’d know if we were being followed by now… How do you think we’re going to get into the city?”

“I was planning on shooting everyone.”

“Oh I see.”

“You telling me you don’t have a plan?”

He grinned. Of course he did; this sort of thing was his specialty. “Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered… actually, we should—agh…” He pressed a hand to his forehead, wincing with pain.

Dominic helped him steady himself; he had been experiencing these headaches with disturbing frequency over the last couple of hours.

“Ahh... Man...” he said, shaking his head. “I’m okay… What was I saying?”

Dominic shrugged.

“Oh, right, yeah,” he waved his hand downward, and sat. Dominic knelt on one knee, listening intently as he explained: “False induction… I program these nanos to quarantine themselves in our muscle tissue, staying deactivated…”

“Checkpoint won’t pick that up?”

“No. Like I said, these are unmarked and unregistered. With no identifiable structure, they’ll appear to be anomalous collections of metal. If anything, we can get them to take us to Edwards directly, saying they are part of a medical situation.”

“Then we get the good doctor to extract them and see if they’re worth anything. He fixes you up, we give him the coordinates, and we’re on our way.”

“Assuming nothing goes wrong, anyways.”

“Yeah, well, I’m counting on you.”

“And your trust couldn’t be better placed,” he said jovially. But he wasn’t so confident behind closed doors. Our lives in my hands… Crap. This can’t end well.

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