by Alter S. Reiss
Everything about Tenth Division Street--the awnings, the posters plastered on posters
plastered on crumbling walls, the bars on the shop windows, the barrels of fish and clams and
pickled beets--looked the way it should. But without the crowds, it was the corpse of a street,
and like any corpse, it looked the same as the living thing, but different and wrong. Like any
corpse, Vozsi didn't want to see it. Tenth Division Street looked like it had right after the
Dissolution, when the generals had declared martial law in Marakov, and tried to take the reins.
The actual corpses had been taken away before Vozsi arrived, but there were still blobs
and splashes of gore on the cobblestones and advertisements--again, like those weeks after the
Dissolution. Vozsi had come to look at a few twists of straw and fragments of blackened, half-melted plastic.
"Bastards," said the paratroop assigned to Vozsi.
"Who?" asked Vozsi.
The paratroop shrugged. Big and blonde, with a dangerous, uninvolved innocence.
"Confederation Army," he said. "Who else would leave things like that unexploded?"
Vozsi picked up a bit of faceplate from the cobblestones. "Modern plastics," he said.
"Confederation arsenal didn't have anything like this in it."
"So it's an adapter," said the paratroop. "I'll radio that in."
Vozsi knelt on the pavement. It might have been an adapter, a military construct that
could copy the appearance of nearby constructs. It might have been a military construct that
parasitized another construct, riding along until the trigger was flipped. It might have been a
regular construct, detonated by some remote enchantment. It might have been lots of things. He
found the fragment of chest plate he was looking for. No sign of an adapter, or a ride-along, or
anything else. Just a few trailing remnants of magic, and serial numbers.
The paratroop was back. "Chief says that there was nothing about the victims, nothing
worth targeting here. Just more ordnance decay. Bastards."
Vozsi nodded, copying the serial numbers to his notebook.
"We're going to open the street now," said the paratroop, and after a pause, Vozsi nodded
again. He wasn't police, he wasn't army. The Technological Ministry had to be called in when a
labor construct exploded and killed people, and he was high enough ranked and low enough
status to be the one who showed up. He could make a fuss, but out past the green-blue-green-blue
flashing lights of the military barricades, the street was packed with people and trucks and
constructs who had to go down Tenth Division.
Any one of them could have the sort of pull that would mean trouble for a delay, as could
any of the shopkeepers who'd been forced from their shops, and who'd count every second of
investigation as money lost.
He stood and brushed his knees clean. As the street filled around him, whatever was left
of the labor construct was trampled down with all the other trash.
"How many?" he asked the paratroop.
"Fifty-seven casualties," said the paratroop. "Eight dead. Bastards."