The A23 Bumblebee was named after some extinct insect that was important for some reason Durham couldn’t remember and didn’t give a shit about. What he cared about was that it was no larger than its namesake. He just hoped the drone was small enough to escape notice – he knew the Butcher’s enhancements included visual motion detection, contrast adaptation, and maybe even an entire suite of electronic support measures.
He had put the drone into the air in order to watch Nixon’s approach, monitor any local law enforcement channels should things get hot, and be able to direct his partner to the target’s position. Somehow, though, the Butcher had remained camouflaged and detonated a charge that acted as a distraction or had killed Manoloff. Or both. It had also destroyed the neural disruptor Durham had placed in Manoloff’s residence to trap their target.
“What was that?” Durham heard Nixon subvocalize through their comms, keeping an impressively level-head considering the recent explosive development.
The camera of the Bumblebee projected the explosion onto Durham’s screen as an impossibly bright., green flare. He resisted the urge to say, “I don’t know,” which would only fill the air with more useless noise. When the ELSUR compensated for the flash Durham was relieved to see the home was still standing, even with all of the first-floor windows blown out. Another part of him noted that a couple of the neighbors were already making calls to the police. He flipped a console switch, flooding the local emergency system with blooms of fake GPS data. With any luck, the local law enforcement would have a hard time finding their way to Manoloff’s for at least another 15 minutes.
Jumping back to the Bumblebee’s HUD, Durham saw it flicker and then go completely blank, leaving him in the blackness of his control goggles. The text that began to appear showed Durham the drone hadn’t been coded down, but physically shut down. “Nixon,” Durham found himself shouting despite knowing it wasn’t necessary, “Butcher is still outside the house.” It was the only useful piece of information he had to pass on – he couldn’t have downed the drone from inside the residence.
There was no response.
The last person to see Nixon alive was the artificial kid named Thai. The explosion had thrown him bodily across the room to bounce off the opposite wall and land on his chest, head turned to one side, pressed between the cool of the floor and the heat of the flames that lit the area. Unable to move, he concentrated on his breathing, trying to keep that normally involuntary action functioning. The only things in his field of vision were the floor, the back of Manoloff’s couch, and three of the blown out windows. The explosion had knocked out the lights, but the fires it had scattered about were just bright enough to limn a shadowy figure beyond the gaping frames that had, moments ago, been some of Manoloff’s most prized house decorations. Thai knew then that it was more than just his breathing that was giving him trouble: His retinal display tagged the shadowy figure as someone called Joe Namath, and produced a series of statistics (TD-INT, Attempted Passes) that were meaningless.
In his concussed state, Thai tried to figure out how a man who had died in the early 21st century could be standing outside of Manoloff’s window. Before he could reach even the most befuddled conclusion, though, the flash of a cybernetic arm streaked across the stranger’s throat and the man Thai’s neural net identified as Broadway Joe was pulled back into the darkness.