As the group reassembled on the western bank of the Truckee River bridge, Carver rose from his investigation of the dead Black Hats to reveal that he had somehow managed to alter his face and skin tone to perfectly mimic one of the deceased, disclosing his previously concealed nature as an infiltrator-model cyborg.
Greer meanwhile inspected the bodies hanging from the bridge trusses and identified them as members of Trinity Springs' militia. The group quickly stripped the dead Black Hats of their Kevlar vests and snagged one of their radios while Plum slapped together several pairs of makeshift nightvision goggles from her pack of mechanical miscellany.
Before the group could set out, however, a speaker installed on the bridge crackled to life, echoed by other distant speakers spread throughout the town. Via this hastily-installed public address system, a man who identified himself as Major Stanisłau Piatek relayed the following message:
"Good evening, Trinity Springs. As you were informed this afternoon, your town is now under the protection of the American Combine. You will recall that a curfew from 1900 hours until 600 hours has been put in place for your safety. The time is now 1855 — any of you still out of doors should return to your homes. Any unauthorized individuals found outside during the curfew period will be taken into custody and brought to me for questioning.
"The individuals who currently remain guests of the American Combine will be returned to their homes as soon as your town's induction is complete, assuming there are no further unfotunate incidents such as the one this afternoon. I am certain we can all work together to make this a speedy and simple process, and we can move forward into a brighter future together. God bless General Throckmorton, and God bless the American Combine. Good night, Trinity Springs."
March and Grace realized that the mention of an extended "induction" seemed strange — to the best of their knowledge, Combine inductions generally consist of rolling into a town, announcing it is now part of the Combine, executing any who resist or object, and then only returning if the town fails to deliver tribute to Denver or if it falls under attack by any other forces.
Combined with the fact that Trinity Springs is much farther west than the Combine's general area of operations, the group expressed some doubt whether these soldiers were actually Combine troops. Lydia used her medical scanner on one of the Black Hats's "headbanger" chips, and the readout indicated that the chip came from the Hellstromme Industries Automated Manufactory in Denver — consistent with the information about how Black Hat headbanger chips are issued and installed.
At Greer's urging, the group got moving again, creeping north through the scattered riverside shrubbery towards Greer's home to check on the safety of his daughter Vicky. Pausing under some trees roughly twenty yards away from the house, Chey and Carver spotted movement both in Greer's home and in the small neighboring house to the west of it. Greer told them that the neighboring house was unoccupied, or at least should have been, and that his daughter always kept a light burning (against his wishes) on the rare opportunities when he was away from home after dark — but all windows in his home were now dark.
Carver quietly approached the neighboring house and then walked in through the front door, where his altered face was identified as "Al" by the two Black Hats who had taken up surveillance positions inside. When questioned why he was away from his post at the bridge barricade, Carver told them that the barricade crew had just fended off an assault by a team that included someone who could throw radioactive fire. One of the Black Hats responded "A fuckin' mutie? Does EVERYBODY know about the air base?" before telling "Al" that he should immediately report in to Major Piatek.
Without asking any further questions, Carver deployed the S.A.N.D.M.A.N. launcher given to him by Plum, which, instead of the tranquilizer dart he had been expecting, launched a canister that filled the entirety of the house with a powerful aerosolized sleeping compound. Both Black Hats immediately fell unconscious, and Carver took a shirt and hat from one before slitting both of their throats.
When Carver returned to the others, a whispered conversation about what steps to take next quickly became heated, and Lydia raised her voice. In response, two Black Hats emerged from the back door of Greer's house to investigate, and the group hurriedly fell silent, falling to the ground to avoid immediate notice. Plum fired the S.A.N.D.M.A.N. at the approaching pair, blanketing them in the sleep powder. One succumbed swiftly but the other shook off the effects, yelling in surprise, and Carver leapt at her from behind a nearby trampoline, cutting her down before she could respond.
As the dust settled, the back door to the house banged open again and another Black Hat emerged onto the yard, drawing a bead on Carver with his rifle.