Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The fist aimed at my head connects. I hear his knuckles break. Before he can scream, I chop him across the throat and toss him off the walkway. His landing will raise some alarms, but it’s twenty floors down and I’m about to get everyone’s attention anyway.
Completing my approach without any more guardsmen pouncing on me, I find the reinforced door is secured with multiple access controls. If I had the time, I could open it without leaving a mark. As I don’t, I slap a five-kilo pack of explosive against the centre of it, then leap backwards. My line swings me high and clear. The explosion tears the door and wall apart. I watch the walkway slowly twist as it falls.
I swing back in. With no time to hang about, I release the line, draw weapons, and charge. The first salvo from the guardsmen ricochets off my breastplate. The second staggers me a little because it hits point blank. They don’t get a third. I’m going to have a lot of bruises tomorrow, but I’d rather pay for painkillers than a coffin.
Kicking through the offices, I can hear panicked screams as the personnel flee. A guardsman with rank markers aims a portable missile launcher at me. I shoot him in the shoulder. As he falls, he fires. The missile goes away from me. The screams get louder, the missile explodes; silence. Another cluster of dead good reasons why you shouldn’t play with missiles indoors.
I leap over and grab the ranker before he can stagger away.
“Where’s the battery vault?”
He looks at me like I’m speaking Nictarban. I shove my gun barrel into his groin.
“Battery vault or I’ll shoot your favourite hobby off.”
That translates.
“Go left. Corridor. Second right. Blue door.”
“Thanks.” I shoot him in the head. Since leaving the military, I’ve worked hard to override my ‘kill everything’ combat settings – finding that knocking people out using excessive force is an acceptable alternative – but today I can’t leave witnesses.
It’s a very big blue door. Inside, there are rows and rows of slots filled with vintage batteries of every conceivable shape and size. Must have been a nightmare to keep your kit going before global standardisation.
“Good afternoon. Do you know the designation of the power source you seek?”
I stare at the glowing panel. Actually, it makes sense there’d be a curator program.
“ERA-201B1.”
“Recognised. Searching. One moment.”
Gives me time to reload.
“We have three. One is eighty percent effective, the other two sixty.”
“I’ll take all three. Sponsor certificate CSL75005.”
Whoever that is, I’m sure they can afford it.
“Recognised. They will arrive in a moment. Thank you for your patronage.”
After uploading persona scrubbers to eliminate any digital traces of me, I listen to armed response teams storming the building as I exit via the bulk waste chute, passive stealth mode keeping me undetected while being undetectable itself.
It takes me a while to get home, but I’m sure I wasn’t followed. After shedding my gear, I make tea, repair the synthetic part of my face, then carefully place two of the batteries in my improvised equivalent of a battery vault.
Slotting the third battery home, I press the activation button and wait. There’s always this trepidation. Maybe this is when my hundred-year-old companion fails to boot.
Green bars flash. It plays a cheerful tune and rises smoothly on legs carefully rebuilt from scavenged parts.
I wipe a tear away. My best-ever present is back. Hey, mum. Your cyborg son’s got his robot cat running again.

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