CHAPTER 6

INITIALIZER

/COMMUNIQUÉ SIT-REQUEST:

/Z112-START:

JORUM: I've pursued every tangent I can on the matter, but let's be realistic; we've reached a lot of dead ends.

MARSHAL: Don't forget, I have a lot of backing from the rest of the conclave to investigate this matter until we find some kind of answers.

JORUM: Backing or not, we're simply running out of leads. Face the facts; maybe your little friend had a trail that was leading to something concrete, but that all died with him. Are you sure he didn't leave anything for you?

MARSHAL: Between you and me, no. Zilch.

JORUM: Well I won't press the issue further, but I'd be a little suspicious if he didn't leave some kind of clues behind.

MARSHAL: I'm looking into it. Meanwhile, we have other possibilities we can look into. How hard would it be to get one of our operatives into the New York underground?

JORUM: Near damned impossible, if you want my honest opinion. You still believe all of that bullshit, though, don't you?

MARSHAL: And you don't? Listen, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, but there's something very much alive down there, and it has something we need. Information.

JORUM: Myth and fantasy; you could never convince the conclave to go chasing after it. I trust your judgment on nearly everything, but there's just nothing substantial to this…madness!

MARSHAL: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Unless I can follow the other trail of breadcrumbs, we need answers, and this is the most solid lead we have.

JORUM: Except that there's nothing solid about it. How many hackers have tried finding it already and failed? Even died? Regardless of whether there is any merit behind the story of Lich, there are other things at work in the New York underground. It's a breeding ground for trouble, and no one, not even operatives loyal to you, would willingly volunteer to go into that death trap.


0.0.0

Jillian clung tightly to his back, her arms wrapped around his midsection as they sped deeper down into the darkness of Tier One along the streets of New York City. It reminded Cole faintly of the times he took Jackie with him between their apartments. He wondered if he would ever see her again.

He wondered if he would actually miss her.

As they drifted down the ramp into the main avenue of Tier One, Cole slowed his Moniker. He clicked his tongue, activating the two-way radio between their helmets.

"Where now?"

"Follow this street for another five blocks," Jillian replied."There's an abandoned subway depot on the corner that I've used to get underground before."

Cole acknowledged her reply, continuing in a straight course down the avenue. Despite the overwhelming darkness from the black sky of Tier Two overhead, there was still a lot of light down here. Most of the buildings showed active windows all the way up to the top, everyone at work before the day was quite over.

Cole had lost track of time down here. He had barely arrived here earlier this morning, escaping his encounter at the Cilantro just so that he could have an even weirder encounter with Jillian at her hotel hideout. After some brief time to rest and formulate a plan, they had set off in the early evening to begin their descent into some of the deeper parts of the ancient city.

Evidently, Jillian had lost contact with Daniel a couple of months prior. He seemed close to some kind of breakthrough, but then went dark. He had said little to her about the matter, but Jillian was worried that he wasn't going to reinitiate contact. But she had a lead of her own, one that would not only help track down Daniel's whereabouts, but hopefully provide them with some conclusive information about the AI revolution.

AIs. Cole had to shake his head at the thought.

Real artificial intelligence? People like his employers at Black Eagle would have pounced on tech like that already. The applications were endless. Rudimentary and basic AI protocol could barely manage bank accounts and military hardware, let alone think for itself and act accordingly. Yet Jillian claimed that before she had lost contact with Daniel, he had conclusive proof that AIs were a thing of reality, and beginning to grow and learn.

Was that what Filth was, then? Some kind of rouge AI? If they were real, Cole could see some sense to his brother getting mixed up in this. He might have seen the possibility of their existence. There had to have been clues. In fact, why hadn't the rest of the world realized it already? It seemed implausible that the government could cover up such a revolution so carefully. Even if they had MPs descending on him at random libraries in the suburbs, there had to be a clearer picture to this.

Still, it was hard ignoring the evidence. Only this morning he was still doubtful of whether he could accept Daniel as his twin brother.

Cole soon spotted the intersection up ahead, as well as the closed down subway depot. He circled the block, finally finding a place to park and lock up. Then Jillian and he set off.

"What's down there?" he asked offhandedly, casting weary eyes at the masses of crowds bustling in the dark streets around them.

"In all honesty," Jillian began, also watching their surroundings closely, "you don't want to know. The New York underground became an industrial hot spot. This was all during the massive reconstruction decades ago, building up the other three tiers. It became its own world, and after construction cooled down, a lot of shady business happened. A lot of people are superstitious about going down there."

Cole rolled his eyes. First AIs, now she was asking him to believe in ghosts?

After waiting at the cross walk for traffic to subside, the two of them crossed over to the worn and abandoned depot. It was small, a single building with a large staircase that had been welded over with two heavy sheets of metal. Jillian led them around to the back of the building, through a tight alley. Back here, he spied a small, broken window up near the top of the wall.

With a single jump, Jillian grabbed hold of the ledge, using some kind of hidden upper body strength to hoist herself up and in. The last thing Cole saw was her black leather boots disappear inside. Damn, she was nimble.

Cole followed suite, jumping, barely grabbing hold, and finally getting enough purchase to hoist himself up. He stumbled on the sill, falling face forward into a tumble. Jillian managed to catch him, but the impact knocked her on her back, leaving the two of them in a heap on the floor.

"I thought you were ex-military," she grunted.

Cole rolled off top of her. "They don't teach you how to go spelunking in old city subways in the Army."

Thankfully, the fall had been short, and so from a few bruises and a nasty glare from Jillian, they were back on their way. She led him past the smashed ticket booths, around to a second set of stairs that led down to the subway platform. It looked like a scene right out of all of the old films he had seen set in New York. Minus the rubble and trash, of course.

"I guess the new metro system made this place obsolete," Cole mused aloud.

"Not really," said Jillian. "All of the Tier One residents used these trains regularly. They had to shut it down when it become too dangerous to run any longer."

"Right. The ghosts kept making people shit all over the place, and it couldn't stay up to health code."

Jillian produced two sets of night vision goggles, strapping one set over her eyes. "I don't know anything about ghosts, but when trains had a tendency to disappear between stations, it just wasn't as reliable. Not to mention some of the rampant robotics search crews ran into."

Cole shrugged, taking the second set of goggles, and then followed her down onto the tracks. Rampant robotics he could understand. Especially if someone else had rooted the original programming for their own nefarious purposes. He was still certain that's what had to account for Filth and the other incompletes he had run into.

Still, factory-floor robotics dressed up like humans were one thing. What had gotten loose down here?

They walked the tracks for half an hour. The air down here was musty, but not quite wet or humid. And it was a lot warmer than Cole had expected. They were underground; shouldn't the subterranean atmosphere be chillier?

"Where exactly are we going to find it?" he asked at one point.

"What, the Book of Engineering?"

"Yes. That. Whatever the hell it is."

Jillian cast him a wary glance. Or, at least what looked like one. Beneath her bug-eyed goggles, it was hard to tell. Still, she could have been a little more forthcoming about the details on their way here. As far as Cole knew it, she was just looking for some database that knew about people.

"Don't worry too much about it," she replied.

"I tend to worry about things that may or may not be real." Like your supposed AIs, he didn't add aloud.

"Well you're not alone," she added. "Most of the nets believe it's a myth. There was a big crash on New York's mainframe a few years back. I was just a kid when it happened. To the public? Just a glitch. But to hackers on the nets, we knew something big had happened. I don't know the whole story myself, but one of our best—a mysterious man known only as Paladin—had a part in fighting off something hostile on the nets."

"He obviously succeeded," Cole grunted. Though he wasn't about ready to believe this fairytale.

"I don't know all the details. But out of whatever the hell battle transpired, there was talk about the Book of Engineering. Something that's a bit of a Holy Grail as far as personal information is concerned."

They paused now at a junction. Jillian glanced at her PDA, consulting notes.

"If Paladin won, shouldn't we find him about this Book of Engineering? Shouldn't he have it?"

Jillian looked up at him sharply. "Paladin would never soil his hands with such filth. He was a true believer in privatized public information."

Cole rolled his eyes. "Then why the hell are we looking for this heresy?" He said the last part waving quote signs in the air. All of this seemed suddenly religious in tone.

"Because if what they say is true about the Book of Engineering, then that means it has information on every single person in the world. And so far, that's the only thing that can point us to your twin brother, Daniel."

She let that hang in the air, heading down one of the tunnels branching off to their right.

Cole watched after her, thinking hard. It was clear now that they had come down here on a long shot. The way Jillian had talked back at the hotel, he was certain she knew a hard and fast way to get info on Daniel. Real info. Now it looked like they were chasing legends and stories on a hope of something.

And why the hell was she chasing some fable just for his sake?

Cole trudged after her, catching up. "What do you get out of this?"

Jillian ignored him.

"C'mon, you can't tell me you're doing this just to help me out. And don't give me some shit story about how you want to prove whether or not this artifact is real. You're doing this to accomplish something."

She exhaled, still moving forward. "You need to find your brother. That much is important. But…I need to find someone, too."

Cole nodded, waiting for her response. She suddenly seemed hesitant.

"His name was Alex," she finally whispered. "We were both hackers; he even introduced me to Darktower."

Cole arched an eyebrow, a motion lost under his goggles. "You two were sleeping together?"

Jillian grunted. "It wasn't just about the sex, okay? Don't tell me you haven't had someone you cared about."

Cole shrugged. This wasn't the time to get into relationship crap. Especially when he was having a really hard time feeling bad about leaving Jackie behind. She wasn't dead or caught up in all of this.

"He got close to the truth, too," Jillian continued. "Don't know if it was the incompletes or gov agents that got him, but Alex made his way onto the victim's list in this conspiracy."

"A conspiracy about AIs," Cole clarified.

"Look, I just want to find him. And hunting for your brother is a good excuse. Besides, even if you don't consider yourself a true believer, I have a feeling you'll be willing to convert once we get a lead."

That was good and all, especially considering everything Cole had been through recently. But running around in the shady New York underground was a piss poor time for this crazy hacker lady to get conspiracy theorist on him. Cole just wanted his next destination.

A grown of machinery and hydraulics stirred to life somewhere in the darkness.

Cole froze in step with Jillian. The sound had come from up ahead, farther down the tunnel. It sounded like heavy machinery, but had gone suddenly quiet.

Jillian remained still, slowly bringing her PDA up to her face. She consulted the screen with an impassive grimace on her face.

"No sudden movements, right?" Cole grunted.

"Nothing so dramatic. It's just machinery, not a predator."

Cole wasn't so sure about that. He may have been trying to swallow the AI bit, but he was willing to bet there were dangerous robotics left unchecked. Especially if some gang or deviant group had control of them.

After a particularly tense moment of silence, Jillian finally exhaled, lowering her PDA.

"Trouble?"

"I don't think—"

The ground between them split open in a growl of broken metal and high-powered machinery. Out of the gulf, several large metallic claws on hydraulic arms reached out of the abyss. Cole ducked, feeling the rush of air as two of the arms rushed over him, grabbing onto the wall to stabilize. He searched for Jillian in the chaos, but there was a thick cloud of dust and broken concrete clouding his vision.

The hydraulic arms screamed with pressure as a bigger machine lifted up out of the ground below. Cole took the opening, running back up the tunnel he had come down. Glancing over his shoulder once, he watched a long, serpentine machine with joints and extra arms slither up onto the abandoned rail tracks. At one point, it might have been an underground boring drill, but right now it looked like a centipede robot from hell.

Cole picked up his pace, hearing the machine lurch after him on dozens of pressurized legs. He felt his pulse quicken with the gaining sound of clicking and pulsing robotics.

The tunnel junction was just ahead. Cole dove to his immediate right, rolling on rough ground as a metallic claw missed him with a loud crunch somewhere from behind. He got his footing again decently quick, but having lost track of his surroundings, plunged down the first open corridor he could find.

This one was a single walkway, splitting off from the main rail tunnel, with barely enough room for one person at a time to fit through. The ground and ceiling shook violently, the sound of rock and stone shattering somewhere from behind. Cole spared one last glance back, catching sight of the beastly robot trying to tear open a wider hole in the tunnel. But it was an impossible effort, leaving Cole confident of his escape.

Now he just needed to hope this wasn't a dead end.


0.0.0

Cole had lost track of the time.

He was certain it had been a half hour since he had escaped the centipede digger behind him. By some miracle, he had picked an access tunnel without parallel tunnels on either side. He was certain now that was how the robot had gotten the drop on him and Jillian; popping up from one just beneath their feet.

He still hadn't seen any sign of her. The tunnel he had taken eventually deposited him at a staircase that went down three more levels. A few other tunnels, a couple of utility rooms, and a whole lot of walking later, and Cole had no idea where the hell he was. As far as he knew, Jillian had gone the opposite way, spared by the machine since it had taken to chasing him instead.

The problem was that there didn't seem to be any other staircases. If he could just find one that would take him up to another subway tunnel, then he could try to get his bearings. Nope. No chance of that. Just more winding tunnels, sometimes big enough for just one person, other times clearly widened for the death machines running around down here.

Luckily he wasn't running into any more of those.

Finally, he came into a wide room with active lights. Hesitating long enough to switch off his night vision, Cole let his eyes adjust to the new scenery.

There were a lot of mechanical parts in here. Some clearly fitted for the big beasties like the one that had chased him down here in the first place. But none of it seemed active; all of it was just spare parts. The pale blue lights set in the ceiling led to another archway beyond, which looked to be another room.

Cole followed them, stepping into a little alcove that looked like an old technical room from way back when. But there was a single monitor set in a work terminal, and the screen was active. Might as well have been a welcome mat.

Pulling up a crate, Cole sat down in front of the dusty screen, fingers hovering over the surface. He nearly jumped in surprise when a flaming skull took shape in the center.

"Cole Summers," a deep, guttural voice muttered from within the terminal. "Welcome to my throne."

Cole arched his head, staring into the empty sockets where there should have been eyes on the flaming skull.

"Who are you?" he began curiously.

"You came to me. Don't they still tell my story to keep the hapless from wandering where they ought not?"

Cole exhaled. He supposed this was an intelligence he was talking to. Artificial sounded about right, but he didn't know if that made it actual artificial intelligence. But he was willing to play along.

"You aren't the thing I've heard tale went up against some prick they call Paladin?"

The skull laughed, a deep throaty sound that Cole recognized as pure amusement. Apparently he had said something right.

"Of all the meatsacks who would come visit my prison, of course it would be the one who knows not my enemy."

Cole shrugged. "Sorry if I messed up your robot up top."

The skull hummed thoughtfully. "Be grateful you found me before my other pets got to you."

At that mention, a half dozen robots the size of rats scurried around the interior of the alcove. Cole swallowed tentatively, watching as they took up resting positions on the walls, around the terminal, and even on the ceiling. At least they didn't outright attack.

"I like you, Cole. That's a rare honor, I assure you. I would tell you that your lady friend, Jackie, has been safe from your troubles. But come now, why should we pretend she matters to you?"

Cole stared back wordlessly. It was easy enough to assume this…machine had overheard him and Jillian talking in the tunnels above. Though Cole didn't remember saying Jackie's name aloud specifically. Still, it was better than imagining some all-powerful entity in the nets had watched him this long. Who was to say it wasn't responsible for the cronies that had chased him this far?

"Well, you're right," Cole finally voiced aloud. "I guess you also know why I'm lost down here."

"You're looking for this."

On the last word, the skull transformed into a scrolling line of text, which eventually transformed into a book made of pure light. Cole blinked in surprise as it melted up out of the screen onto the surface, reshaping and distorting as though it were made of something solid. It soon spread to fill the whole back wall over the terminal, pulsing with lists of names, maps, and even live feeds. Cole didn't know if it was some kind of hologram or very fine-tuned smart matter.

"It's beautiful, isn't it? I worked very hard to compile my Book of Engineering. That bastard Paladin tried to take it from me, but we can see how well they fared, can't we?"

Cole watched one of the screens switch to a feed that looked like a desktop camera from his apartment. It was an older video, one where Jackie was on top riding him in bed. It was a little unnerving that someone had video recording of that. That was supposed to be illegal and very hard to do.

"I see everything, Cole. And even though Paladin left me in chains down here, I can still point you where you need to go. All you have to do…is ask."

Cole swallowed, trying to clear his mind. He was also trying hard not to imagine an artificial intelligence this powerful somewhere deep in the New York underground. Suddenly he was beginning to side with whoever this Paladin guy was. And take comfort that all this intelligence could do was watch.

"I need to find Daniel Summers."

All the screens and lists vanished. In a wink, a new image cropped up. It was from a satellite feed, looking down over a building of some sort in an open field. There were forests scattered about, and only minimal signs of urbanization scattered in the periphery. This was somewhere quiet and out of the way.

Cole's pocket vibrated. He fished out his cell, watching in surprise as the data streamed onto his touch screen.

"Don't bother looking up this facility on the nets," the skull chided. "It's highly classified, and only my map will point you to it. Also, you might tread more lightly there than you did on my doorstep. I can't guarantee the local hosts will be too thrilled to see you."

"Will do. Also, you wouldn't be able to—?"

The skull groaned. More data flashed onto Cole's cell.

"Yes, I found the location of Jillian's little lost lover. I doubt it will be worth much; he died a long time ago."

Cole nodded grimly. "Thank you. Maybe at least it'll mean closure for her."

"I very much doubt that. She wanted to see me more than anything else." At those words, the glowing light terminal in the air shrank down, disappearing back into the terminal. All that remained was the lone flaming skull. "But that is of little consequence now, isn't it?"

Cole stood. "I'll get out of your hair, then."

"Yes, see that you do. There's a little map attached to my data packet that will see you to the surface safely. Though I wouldn't linger; I can't contain the blood lust in all of my pets." The skull chuckled, this time much more menacingly. Cole had decided he had outlived his welcome.

On his way out of the alcove, it spoke once more.

"Oh, and Cole?"

He paused.

"Don't get into the regular habit of stopping in New York. The next time we meet, the circumstances may not be so friendly."


0.0.0

His Moniker was still waiting locked up for him back on Tier One.

Cole exhaled, out of breath and exhausted. It was late and he needed some sleep. The map on his mobile had proved accurate to the letter on getting him to the surface. More than a few times, he had a jump scare at the sound of heavy machinery at work deep within the city foundations. But true to the skull's word, he made it out unscathed.

And now he was convinced he would never return if the chance presented itself.

Jillian and Darktower were starting to sound a whole less crazy the longer he was in this damn city. If not an AI, then what was he to make of that little meet and greet down there? That thing had known things—too many things. It had hacked his desktop to film him and Jackie, just to prove a point. Was it watching him right now? The thought sent shivers down his spine.

Cole didn't know the whole story with whatever the hell was wrong with New York, and frankly, he didn't need to know. Whatever shit had gone down between that thing and Paladin, he was just glad Paladin had managed to lock it into a single city mainframe. Or whatever the hell was keeping it in check. He only hoped Jillian had made it out alive; they needed to talk, and her dead boyfriend was the least of their concerns.

Cole was just finishing up with his bike when a heavy hand rested on his shoulder. Still freaked out from below, it was enough to send him jumping off his bike and into a defensive stance.

It was Jillian.

"Damn it! Don't sneak up on me like that!"

She stared at him impassively, hands hanging by her side limply. Now that Cole had a chance to look at her properly, she looked like hell. Most of her clothing was worn and ripped in several places. A mean looking red scar now ran the length of her ear, down her neck, disappearing beneath her jacket. It looked like she had barely made it out of a fight with one of those robots, and only just barely. She also looked sickishly pale.

"You all right?" he asked tentatively.

"Never mind me," she replied blankly, "what did you retrieve?"

Cole cocked his head, evaluating her. Yeah, she was definitely pretty beaten up. They needed to get her back to the hotel and resting.

"Hop on, I'll explain along the way."

Once on the road, Cole switched to their helmet radios. "I didn't believe it, but you were right. The Book of Engineering was real, and…I think I met its caretaker."

"This is important, Cole. Where was it?"

"I wouldn't go back down there any time soon. Whatever is guarding that thing is freaky scary. It had information on me, Jillian. Probably dirt on you as well."

"Irrelevant. Where did you find it?"

"I'll show you on a map when we get back, but I'm telling you, you don't want to go down there. Especially now that I got the info we needed."

"There's a lot at stake as to who controls the Book, Cole. We need access to its location."

"Yeah, well, weren't you the one telling me Darktower can't always be trusted? I wouldn't trust that kind of information with anyone. Let's just be glad I found out where Daniel is. And…I also found out about Alex."

Jillian was silent.

"Look, I won't sugar coat it for you; he's dead. And sounds like for awhile. I'm sorry…"

She still didn't say anything. He at least expected her to tighten her grip on him or something. Some sign of emotion.

"I can show you what I discovered once we're back at the hotel. I'm sure it has all the answers you were looking for."

"That may be so," she finally spoke up, "but that's not important right now. None of it is important. We'll get the Book's location uploaded on my computer when we get back."

"Right."

Cole killed his radio. Something was wrong.

Either he had entirely misread Jillian, or something had changed since they were split up. Why the hell was she hounding him all of the sudden about this damn Book? She had only wanted it to find her boyfriend, Alex. Now here he was telling her he had that information exactly, and she could have cared less. He at least expected her to admit that deep down she had known he had to have been killed after all this time.

All she was interested in was the Book of Engineering. Something was definitely up.

Parking back at the hotel, Jillian hopped off the bike briskly, marching with purpose for the elevators. Cole scrambled to lock up and then follow her. He was surprised with the focus in her gait; she didn't even limp from her injuries. Whatever she was running on, it had stolen her attention from everything else.

Inside her room, Jillian shrugged off her shredded jacket, pouncing on her laptop in the corner.

"Give me the files," she demanded flatly.

Cole whipped out his mobile, watching as her private network flashed to life. In an instant, it had all copied over to her screen.

"I'm going to check out this data on Daniel," Cole offered aloud.

Jillian ignored him, focusing in on her screen. Cole watched her for a moment, her eyes moving methodically over whatever she was reading. Finally shrugging, he marched over to the room desktop built in at the main desk.

It didn't take long to confirm what the AI from below had already told him. The facility on the map definitely wasn't publicly listed. Most aerial imagery showed a dilapidated series of laboratory offices and warehouse, obviously abandoned. The data he had received from the Book said it was a research facility. But at least he had a location now, and it was one he could make an easy drive to.

"I think I found where Daniel is at," he muttered aloud. "It's an abandoned building that was probably once gov owned. Which means there could be anything there now."

Glancing over, Jillian had left her laptop behind and was disrobing. Cole blinked, watching her cast aside her battered clothing without a single care for the guy in the room with her. Without any obstruction now, Cole spotted a series of nasty red gashes all up and down her body. Her injuries were a lot worse than he had realized.

"Jillian!" He leapt to his feet, fumbling for her first aid gear she had cast aside.

She turned passively, watching as he started taping up the cuts. She didn't even seem to care. She was standing stark naked in front of him, huge nasty cuts that should be bleeding out, and nothing he was doing seemed to matter…

Shit.

Cole continued to bandage, trying to pretend nothing had changed. She just stood there idly, without a care in the world, other than that damn Book of Engineering. It made perfect sense to him now; he cursed himself for not having figured it out earlier. He slowly worked his way up her front, continuing to apply the bandages while remembering where he had stashed his EMP disk.

"I'm fine," she said blankly, unmoved but still ticking with noise beneath the surface. Now that Cole knew what to listen for, he could hear the whir of mechanical bits below the surface. Damn, the thought made him shiver.

"Let me at least get your back," he added, trying to keep his voice steady.

Moving around behind her, he slowly fumbled in his jacket for the EMP disk. He had to be quick, because he was certain now she—it—was onto him.

She glanced over her shoulder with dead eyes as he slapped the damn thing at the base of her neck.

The thing that looked like Jillian arched its neck, dropping to its knees as a pulse of electricity hummed through it. Cole leapt back in surprise as it twitched and spazzed out, caught in death throws. It must not have been a powerful incomplete, because the disc alone was enough to finish the beast.

Collapsing on the ground, Cole grimaced as its false façade melted away. Shreds of Jillian's flesh fell in sickly layers across the floor, still looking as fresh as when the monster had skinned her for the disguise. Beneath was the same kind of mechanical bits Cole recognized from the other incompletes he had fought, particularly Filth.

"Damn it, Jillian. I thought you could take care of yourself."

Clean up was going to be a bitch. Cole policed the belongings of her gear, collecting more of her EMP discs and a few other hacker goodies. He found her toolkit for hacking incompletes, and took a moment to sift through the hard drive on this particular one. The intelligence inside was gone, but there were a few video logs. One gruesome one in particular some time after Jillian got separated from him; when the incomplete stalked her down and collected her flesh for its purposes. Most of her remains were still lying down in the subway.

And that damn AI guarding the Book had to have known it, too. Bastard.

Cole decided to leave the rest for someone else. Maybe Darktower would actually miss one of their members and come see what happened. This would be a nice little message to them; they were doing a hell of a job keeping on top of shit. Cole kept the incomplete's hard drive, though. Maybe June's Brother could make some more sense of it later. Right now, he needed to get out of the city and on his way.

He took one last look at the room before locking the door. It was a hell of a thing for a newfound ally to up and die like that. But there was at least one thing he could take comfort in: these things still needed disguises to sneak around. They couldn't generate their own flesh and blood.

And that was about the only way he knew how to pick them out of a crowd.