Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Screams mingle with the hiss of blood on coals. The clatter of dropped gear and the sound of running feet. When will they learn that using small weapons against us is the same as committing suicide?


I jerk into wakefulness as the amber letters glow across my optic. What the frack? Tactical comms icon flashes for attention. I look and allow.

“Trooper Lillman. Are you returned from C-mode?”

“Awake and curious.” The fact I reply casually is proof. Combat mode has limited syntax and doesn’t do chat.

“Thank Elvis for that. I am Captain Morebay. I need you to do full-droid until we are in the lifter. Do you understand?”

From an observer’s standpoint, you cannot distinguish between biodroid and android unless we are loaded. Biodroids have a diversity of gear and personalisation. Androids, obviously, do not indulge in personal anything. So when things hit the fan, all of us have learned how to behave like an android. Because they have immunity, in effect. It’s called ‘progmal’ and means that the android experienced an error. You don’t court-martial faulty machinery.

“I am returning control to you but erasing recent memory.”

That’s bad. Means something triggered C-mode outside of combat.



My view returns and I’m standing across the road from my parent’s house. They’re on the lawn talking to a constable. Mum’s crying. There’s a biodroid officer standing by them. I realise that is Captain Morebay and officially she’s nowhere near me.

“Lifter is on your three at the end of the street. Go. Now.”

I pivot on my right heel and parade march to the lifter across front gardens, through fences and over vehicles. There’s a click as the Captain shares her vox with me: “As you can see, your son has had a void episode brought on by progmal. What you see is what acted earlier. Only the android. I’ll make sure he receives the best treatment, but you understand that because of this incident, he cannot legally visit here again.”

Dad’s voice is full of gratitude. “Thank you. Captain. It’s such a relief to know he’s not lost.”

With that, it all wraps up double-quick and moments later the Captain is across from me as the lifter heads for Aldershot.

“Free and easy, Lillman.”

I drop the stiff poise and relax the bits of real me in here: not many.

“What did I do, Captain?”

“Not your fault, Lillman. You went over to a neighbourhood barbeque at your parent’s request. People are curious about hybrids, as you know. While you were doing a sterling job of relationship building, one of the teenage boys pulled a zapgun and shot you in the back.”

That would do it. Zapguns were the favoured challenge weapon on Uritreya. Always followed by a vicious firefight.

“How many, Captain?”

“Twenty-six. No wounded. Gunman first. Apart from them being friendlies, it was beautiful. The police car was a work of art.”

I put my head in my hands. “Oh gawd. What a way to end.”

“You miss the point, Lillman. You were getting along famously despite being eight feet tall, covered in armour and having eyes that look like one-piece sunglasses embedded in your featureless alloy face. When the situation changed you only took out immediate threats. They didn’t realise that any movement toward you would be interpreted as aggression by C-mode. Everyone who ran away survived.”

I looked at her. “And?”

“You’re joining my mob. Executive Operations. One of us with the charisma to interact with fleshies? You’re wasted on gruntwork.”


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