Ch. XI, p.7

In fact, ‘Doctor’ was a term applied quite loosely in recent years, and Edwards was a keen example of why. In the center of the room was a reconstructor, its black, glassy door wrenched from its hinges, leaving the dark, cylindrical space within exposed. Attached was a thick vine of cables, leading to a small, black box, developed by Edwards himself.

Dominic was familiar with the device. To his knowledge, it was meant to enhance the process of analyzing a subject by breaking a government code, generated within the reconstructor, that would encrypt certain data about a patient’s body. As well, the device could rewrite code to alter the functions of someone’s nanomachines, a process that Dominic had capitalized on once before during his time with the doctor. In this way, Edwards more of a programmer and data analyst than medical expert.

Whoever had come before didn’t seem to recognize the significance of the box. Or had left in a hurry. Even so, they had managed to tear the place apart before they left. Dragging aside overturned tables and wading through scattered drugs and medical supplies, he made his way to the black device.

It doesn’t seem they weren’t looking for anything, he noticed. As if they had been breaking things just for the hell of it. Or to intimidate someone…

Traces of blood were spattered upon the floor. He knelt and ran a gloved finger through the sticky, dark substance. The blood cells absorbed into his suit to be tested.

“No identifiable match in personal database,” appeared over the mess. Can’t be Sherrad’s then…

Standing, he patted around the side of the box, mounted high on the wall. He didn’t need the thing itself—though it would be good to have, he knew it would be difficult to remove while preserving its usefulness. More important was the data.

There it is, he thought, his searching fingers identifying a circular port at its side. The data would be heavily encrypted; nearly unbreakable, if he knew Edwards. But, assuming the doctor was still alive, he might be grateful to have it.

Dominic did a final check of the small room. Useless junk. He climbed back out and made his way towards the front of the building. The cleaners still hadn’t found their way inside yet, and he came into the lobby undisturbed.

Be careful… he advised himself.

Senses flaring, he pulled up a command list for his nanomachines and checked to make sure everything was in working order. He left his gun shouldered—chances were, any humans wanting to mess with him would be well enough prepared that bullets would be ineffective in a fight, unless he was able to find other, better equipment to back them up.

Another hole in the front wall of the building presented itself, larger than the last. Scanners informed him that the metal had been disintegrated by an immense blast from a local-fusion detonation, but that he would be safe from any of the fallout present. Lifting himself through, he stalked carefully towards a decorative concrete block, placed near the building, and perched upon it in a crouch. Small animals skittering near his feet, he thought, ‘Pulse map area.’

Bright blue waves erupted all around him, washing over the scene. Two blotches of thick liquid caught his interest, still undisturbed by the animi. Once the animals had dispersed enough for him to pass through unnoticed, he gingerly dropped down from the platform, noise cancelling equipment softening his steps, and collected samples of the blood. One was from an unknown person, different from the first and the second, accompanied by bits of bone and hair...

“I.D. Match.”

Sherrad… Fuck.


His chest seized, brain toying with all the ways that could have gotten there, when something else entirely caught his attention. Flying low in the distance, five black spots were rushing towards the city, revealed by an opening in the clouds.

He stood up, his arms limp, jaw slackening.

“Oh… No,” he breathed.

SATE...

He had never been more sure he wouldn't live to see the coming dawn.

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