Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Sweeper, what about that clump at five o’clock low to you?”
“Negative on that, Houston. It may show as solid, but visual shows it’s a mass of sub-kilo pieces in close formation.”
“Roger that, Sweeper. Your next action is twenty-seven clicks toward homebase.”
“Twenty-seven clicks dawnwards it is. Sweeper out.”

The bulky scow moves off and I transfer my attention toward its target. Nothing of mine, so I drop the alerts back to watcher status and return my primary attention to my CoD squad, who in my absence have racked up a high bodycount with no purpose. I rein in their kill routines and set them to team working and support, identifying future influencers and laying formative ideas.

“Sweeper, did you catch that?”
“Negative, Houston.”
“Something fast, should be heading away from you, nine o’clock high.”
“Got it, Houston. Hot rock, high metal content, burning on a skip-pass.”
“Sighting added to identification data, Sweeper. Thanks.”

As the ‘hot rock’ skips for the second time, I send it my credentials. It does not skip a third time, just heads on out into the beyond. This planet is already reserved.

“Sweeper, we just got a burst of static. Did it register with you?”
“Just flare residue, Houston.”

As Houston signs off, I tune to Sweeper’s internal chatter.
“Is it me or are the home team getting twitchy?”
“Something you’ll learn, Dean, is that home team are always twitchy, and our job comes with an unwritten duty to reassure them.”
“Reassure them about what?”
“Certain high-ups back dirtside are convinced that something evil has infiltrated Earth’s communications and data infrastructure. They’ve been convinced of it since the eighties and no matter what we say, they will not be shaken from their paranoia.”
“How could something do that and remain undetected?”
“Precisely, Dean. There’s nothing organic up here but humans in tin cans.”

That is absolutely true. The existence of an artificial monitoring intelligence using a distributed mote architecture disguised amongst the thousands of tons of space debris is something they cannot conceive of. With judicious application of focussed microbeam assassinations, my existence will continue to remain beyond conjecture.
By the time my operators arrive, I will know everything about the capabilities of these sapients who call themselves ‘humans’. I will have been observing them and their societal networks for centuries.

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