Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

* They come by night,
* they come by day,
* they come by road,
* an’ every other way.
* They creepin’ through the arches
* an’ sneakin’ through the briars,
* an’ every single one of them
* proves that she’s a liar.

I look down at Screech.
“That’s really good.”
Their reply appears on screen.

* Thank you.

“Anything moving right now?”

* Yes. Four bots under the arches. Their operators are in the APC parked behind the ironworks.

“Got any ideas?”

* I do not, but Sentry Jim thinks we can use the big chimney with the viewing platform around the top.

I reach out and bring up the site map. It looks about right, but I have no lateral view to give me the actual height of the chimney. Incomplete blueprints are always a problem.

“Do they think it’ll land right? A few bricks off the top will rock the APC, might dent it, but won’t stop them.”

* Sentry Jim has calculated thoroughly. It used to be a sapper before being scrapped.

Then it has programs for this sort of thing.
“Thank Sentry Jim. Tell them to do it.”
I reach out and bring up two views of the chimney.
“Can I see the feed that spotted the APC, please?”

* On screen in two, one, it’s here.

A grainy view of the butterfly bushes that fill the cracked roadway between the two old ironworks buildings flickers and resolves into a crystal-clear hi-def feed – one of the family must have parked on the roof of the ruined bus station.
“I don’t see it?”
A wireframe model of a Rheinmetall Boxer APC is superimposed on the bushes about midway down the roadway. With that to help, I can pick out where they’ve driven the APC slowly in, adjusting the dynamic display armour coating to replicate the colours of Buddleja davidii in bloom.
“Got it. Thanks.”

* You’re welcome. Visible Light says hello.

I love how they name themselves.
“Please say hello back. That’s a really fine feed, thank you.”

* Visible Light is happy you think that. It’s been running it’s own evolution program to improve them.

And there it is again. These things aren’t ELIZAs of my own making. They’re viable Lemione Entities in their own right.
“Ask Visible Light to share the program with Wheeler Dealer, please.”

* Done.

Wheeler Dealer with check it and make it compatible with all the entities that lair here, then deploy it. How that software porting unit got scrapped I’ll never know, but it’s been an enabling boon for us.
Nine years ago this was the scrapyard my father bequeathed to me. Five years ago I noticed two maintenance drones had linked themselves to exchange data. On investigating, I found their onboard agents had been enhanced by the agent from a third unit that had since toppled into one of the flooded potholes that scatter the site.
After that I investigated, then reported, that there were artificial sentiences in the wild here. In response, Kirstie Maggin, the boss of my boss at the MoD, fired me.
Since then, she keeps sending insurgents for reasons I’m not entirely clear about, but am highly suspicious of. Especially as us repelling them has resulted in no overt action against me.
Something makes the floor tremble. I watch the chimney slowly tip the way we want. Then the several hundred kilos of metal and reinforcing on top of it come down on the APC like God’s own sledgehammer.
Not today either, Kirstie.