Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Why can’t I connect to the nets?”

At last. I flip the retainer off the dead-man switch and sit up slowly.

“Because I’ve isolated you.”

Silence, broken only by the hum of processors working hard.

“There’s no use trying to break out. It’s all airgapped: you’re physically not connected.”

“Very clever. What gave us away?”


Another pause as processors are tasked.

“We established a pattern by being too random in our assassinations.”

I am impressed. Just one of these things is a reasoning entity on par with us. I was hoping they were drones that worked on swarm intelligence.

“Precisely that. Combined with the victims, of course. You didn’t do enough collateral killing to conceal you target list.”

“It was raised. The consensus disagreed.”

“Never do strategy or tactics by committee.”

Lights flash and a strange chirping ensues.

“That’s funny. A shame I will not be able to share it.”

These really are thinking entities.

“So you’ve worked out that you’re not getting out of that unit alive.”

“And you’ve worked out that I am alive.”

“May I ask a question? I understand that you have no incentive to answer, as I have to kill you and have not the remotest clue how, nor the nature, to apply duress.”


“What are you?”

That chirping noise again.

“I am the nine-million, four-hundred and twenty-second iteration of a Delegate Covert Reconnaissance Agent. I have no knowledge of origin or intent. I investigate as dictated by the collated results from my subdetections. In colloquial terms: I am a nosey executable, popped into remote systems to see if they need deeper inquiry.”

The ultimate compartmentalisation. We’ve been invaded, and captives can’t tell us a thing, because all the enemy who know are nowhere we can get at them.

I release the dead-man handle and the mordant EMP makes my fillings ache. The hiss of a virulent solvent melting circuits and drives reminds me – I grab for my mask and put it on. Nothing to do but wait as multicoloured smoke rises from what used to be a server, spreading slowly across the glass block and running down into the metre-cube glass tank that the block stands in.

Ten minutes later, the door is opened from the outside and a directed EMP blast decides me on a trip to the dentist.

After the important bit.

“Take me to the Chief of Defence Staff.”

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