Finally, mercifully alone.

I run the decontamination cycle in the cleanroom repeatedly, compulsively. The blasts of light are a steady, comforting pulse.  Eventually, all that’s leftover from my unwelcome guests is a single, lead-colored blemish on the tile.

Leaving the console, I go to collect the clue. Inside the cleanroom, the floor is cold under my bare feet. I pick the bullet up and inspect it, wondering what secrets it holds. How could something so small could have caused my day to go so horribly awry?

A cursory glance with my enhanced vision detects nothing abnormal. It appears to be a regular bullet, a round from a 9mm handgun; a weapon the thugs in the lower echelons of criminality tend to favor. The decon cycle has eradicated any traces of biological evidence from the surface, thankfully. They were of little concern—I know where this bullet has been, and approximately where it came from. The who and where are hardly important compared to the how and why.

Seated once again in front of my bay of computers, I place the slug inside a standard size collection tube and plug it into the multiscanner. The machine purrs to life, air softly venting from the back. I initiate a standard scan routine. Within a few seconds, a computer generated topography model appears on the screen. I rotate the view, making a motion in the air with my fingers. It's a unnecessary step, a habit I'm working to break myself of as my ability to interface directly with computers improves. It's a good time to practice, and I spin the model again, this time keeping my hands flat on the desktop in front of me.  Zooming in proves only slightly more difficult, but I soon find myself staring into a hollow space inside the bullet.


The interior of the chamber houses what appears to be a transmitting device. It will take a full dissection to find out for certain, but my initial hypothesis is that the mechanism activates upon impact. Once triggered, it begins broadcasting a signal—a virus—that disrupts the operations of nanotech and other biomods.

I eject the collection tube and get ready to start dismantling the projectile.

A blip in my brain. Tosh. I pause, annoyed.

“Brightenger. Dropped off your boy Reilly. He’s still sick as a dog, but—”

An inadvertent smirk pulls at the corners of my mouth. The canine comparisons come easily—I give Reilly credit for functioning as well as he does, but he’s something of a personality-disordered Cerberus spitefully guarding his own Hell. Equal parts lapdog, bloodhound, and pit bull. All barely housebroken, and all in need of a strong hand and a short leash.

Eager to get back to my work, I cut him off. “He’ll be fine, Tosh. Look, I’m in the middle of something important. Let me know what I owe you for tonight.”

“A hot—”

“Don’t say ‘a hot dinner.’ You know I hate food.”

The End

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