Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Shadows dance across the wall as the spotlight swings from its broken mount. I see sparks in the darkness of the crack left by my blow. Too long looking! Its backhand catches me and I bounce off a wall. Getting my feet under me in time to stop falling over takes a lot, but the ‘bot is coming in, arms spread for the customary double chop they use for a take down. I lunge forward and ram my escrima stick into the crack I made. It goes a few centimetres inside and I slap my palm against the base of it, setting off the one-shot taser built into the business end.
Smoke shoots from its eyes and the cranial back panel blows off. This Boston Integrated Machina MkVI-S is fried. One down. I take a deep breath, draw my spare shock escrima, and turn toward the other ‘bot. No time to celebrate. These things are lethal…
And have padded waists?
It’s backing away. Nope. Not gonna happen. I move in for a fast headshot and the deadly enforcement ‘bot falls flat on its arse.
“Jesucristo! Wait! Hold it! I’m not- No! Just a moment! Mierda! Where’s the release?”
It’s twisting around like my sister trying to fight her way out of her prom dress.
“You want me to unzip something, sport?”
The flailing stops. It looks at me.
“Sí, por favor. Dark blue rectangle, high on the back.”
Well, shoot. I step round, spot the target and give it a poke.
There’s a hiss of seals releasing and the trademark wide shoulders fall away, landing with a hollow clatter. Armoured hands reach up and wrench the head free, revealing a tousled mat of sweat-slick hair. Under it is a freckled face with wide eyes. The gauntlets come off and I see each fingernail has a different planet painted on it; the thumbnails show Earth and Moon.
She gives me a nervous grin: “Bet you never expected to meet a chubby android.”
I crouch down, holstering my escrima.
“I never expected a BIM6-S to beg me not to hit it, that’s for sure.”
“They wouldn’t. I’m new: a 6-M.”
“‘Manual’. The lobbying was too successful. It’s going to take BIM ages to make the numbers agreed for policing requirements in this country. If they can’t, they’ll lose billions in international sales. So, someone had the idea of teaming each Sentry with a Manual.”
“Clever. Doubles their forces, giving them breathing room. Plus, that sort of recruitment makes headlines – the administration’s always desperate for good news.”
She grins: “Not this sort: BIM are quietly employing illegals. Sign a non-disclosure agreement, get paid in SNAP benefits, get a green card after four years. Lose the lot if you talk. Didn’t you ever wonder why the border crises went away?”
“I thought the media just moved on to the next trumped up panic. Always said those in office were cunning not stupid.”
I look about: “You in trouble for losing your 6-S?”
“Less than for revealing secrets to a hardened android killer.”
“Fancy a new job?”
“Like what?”
“Intelligence consultant for hardened android killers.”
“Tempting. What about my current position?”
“We chuck the 6-S in your patrol car along with all your gear-” she frowns, “after you’ve changed into some of my spare togs.” She smiles. “Then I shoot it with an RPG. Full tank, big bang, it’ll be weeks – if ever – before they work out your bits didn’t get burnt to nothing.”
She sticks out her hand: “Sofía. I’m in.”
I shake it: “Gideon. Welcome to the dark side.”