You'll examine the wrecked Phages.

Curiosity wins out over survival instinct this time. The recoil damper is starting to fade from your arms, and you wait out the familiar tingling and prickling as the anaesthetic is filtered away. Even once the numbness is gone, your work on the Phage is clumsier than usual. Damage from the tazer has made some of your implants and subsystems balky, slow to react to signals from your brain.

The cold metals and circuitry of the Phage reveal a small but significant difference from others of its type that you've seen before. Not only was it equipped with a tazer, but also carried a load of anaesthetic needle darts. It was obviously armed and programmed for capture rather than execution, but why?

A quick check on the second Phage reveals that it, too, had been equipped to make a live capture. The Virus and its mobile units have always been implacable enemies of the human population. This change makes no sense in the world and life you have known.

While this is inexplicable to you, it occurs to you that you know someone who might be able to find out more information. You take the head of the first Phage. The instructions and programming in its onboard computer could reveal much to a good hacker.

The street outside the warehouse is silent and dark, except for the fragmented shine of metal where your grenade destroyed half the death squad. What remains is too twisted and broken to tell, but you're sure they were armed as the two in the warehouse were.

Electronic nonsense rattles suddenly in your mind and is just as suddenly silenced. A damaged subsystem has overloaded and been shut down. Necessary routines are shunted to other routes, but it's obvious that you will need to have repairs before your cyber and implants are fully functional again. Still, that's a better outcome than many would have had after an encounter with four Viral Phages.

You trigger your mastoid implant.

"Corvus, got your ears on?" you subvocalize, and wait for a reply.

"Yeah. Been tryin' to reach you." Corvus's voice is sprinkled with static. So, the current got to that, too. Hopefully the scrambling and anti-tracking subroutines of the implant are still operating. The last thing you need is to draw more Phages to your location.

"Sorry, man. Had interference. Phages."

"Hope they're a pile of scrap now."

"I'm talking to you, ain't I?"

"Yeah. What're you needing?"

"First, is Doc operating tonight? And if he is, where'd he set up the chop shop tonight? Second, you know where I can find Babbage these days?"

"Doc's up and running. Should be operating out of the old archeology museum downtown. As for Babbage, rumor is he's been hangin' at the Blue Room."

"That dive? Well, his taste hasn't improved any."

"Yeah, man. Those byte-boys never change."

"Thanks, Corvus."

"Catch you later."

You deactivate the mastoid implant. The Blue Room is out on the fringe of the mostly abandoned suburbs to the south, the opposite direction from Doc's chop shop downtown. You'll probably only have time to visit one or the other tonight before you'll need to find some cover for the day and get some kind of rest.

The End

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