One Shadow at a Time

Ready to launch!

37, day three.
This is a story I wrote awhile back, to see if I could write this kind of thing. I really like how it came out, but I am curious if it is confusing to people who aren’t inside my head. Anyway, here it is.

One Shadow at a Time

I peeked around the corner cautiously. I noted three mobile targets; a human security agent, a repulsor camera, and a sentry bot.

Proximty, I said silently, Can you opsat stats on those bots?

Attempting…said a cool voice in my head, The camera is a Series Seven Seventeen Mynacorp Optibot. No information available on the other target.

No information? I said, None at all?


I pulled further behind the corner and ducked down as the security agent walked closer.

So it must be one of those prototypes Precon warned us about. I’m seeing a lateral diamond grid surveillance patrol pattern. Confirm?


The guard was about to exit the corridor on the far side, and I could hear the footfalls of another agent coming from the other direction. It was forty yards between my current position and the nearest salient cover, a remote security kiosk which would block line of sight.

Tag analysis on that sentry bot’s optic. What are you getting?

Tagged. Analyzing. Low level sonic surveillance. One hundred and ninty two degree coverage field.

I did some quick math in my head. There was at least a minute of coverage without any security agents, but only a one point two second blind spot between the camera and the bot. One point two seconds. Forty yards. At full power, it would almost be enough. But full power was loud.

Seven Seventeen Optibot, that means a very local power supply. Cellular power?

Cellular or low fusion, said Proximity.

And there’s no way to tell? Can you hijack the power? That might allow me to overclock my sonic dampeners and hit full tilt towards that kiosk.

Power redirection could be accomplished within twenty yards of power source, if the power can be identified.

Could you hijack the full stream? Knock out the repulsors? Wait, never mind, that would definitely draw too much attention. Twenty yards, huh? Have you located the power source?

Scanning…negative. Power source not found.

Not found? Where did you…Oh, nuts.

“Possible target detected,” a smooth feminine voice said from in front of me. It had to be the sentry bot, but it did not have that hollow metallic echo every sentry bot I’d ever heard used. I just barely heard its treads as it slid towards me. I was sure I hadn’t moved, or made any sound. Whatever scanners it used, they were top of the line. I quickly shut down everything that might be making noise, my comlink, my digital info display, my camo, my breathing. They didn’t make much noise, but I had no idea what this thing was capable of. I could hear the tiny pulse of my heart beating. I inwardly swore at it. If my heart gave me away, she and I were going to have some words. I’d have to talk to the R&D boys about some kind of cardio stealth implant.

“Scanning area,” said the voice. That voice. I kept perfectly still. My camo was off, so I was slightly more visible than usual. I was confident that I was completely cloaked in shadows, confident enough to bet my life, at least, but nonetheless I sure hoped this thing couldn’t detect sweat.

“Scan negative.” The voice was too comforting; almost enough to make me relax. Maybe that was the point. It sound like my mother. Well, not my mother, but certainly someone’s mother. Someone human. Then it hit me. I realized what was going on. I switched on my active auditory filters, hoping the infinitesimal noise wouldn’t give me away.

“No target found,” the gentle voice said. I sighed very, very softy with relief and started breathing again. I switched my systems back on.

And there it was, staring at me from my digital display. They could synthesize voices very well, but they were never going to be perfect. That was just the physics of it. The timbre of a sound made by organic components is always going to be just a little different that those produced mechanically. And this was it. This wasn’t a bot with a human sounding voice, this was a human, or at least part of it was.

Proximity, quickly, scan the sentry for electro-cellular emissions.

Confirmed. Sentry bot generating 6200 KWH cellular energy.

That was brilliant. Scary as hell, but whoever came up with it was brilliant. Geared up soldiers can generate way more than enough cellular energy to power their tech, but there’s no way to harness the output and remain mobile. But keep enough organics and turn the rest of it into a mobile tank, and you could have a sentry bot powering short range local systems.

Lock on, proximity, and get me that power.

Locking on, redirecting. 12% 17% 22%…

The camera was facing the other direction, and the sentry was about to resume the lateral diamond patrol, just on the crest of my window. It was coming…coming…I charged up my sonic dampeners, my wired muscles, my reflex enhancers…

Additional power at 77%


I darted forward and charged at triple speed towards the kiosk. My leg muscles pumped and my feet slammed soundlessly against the metal floor. If the security agent rounded the corner just then, or the Optibot caught the tiniest echo that slipped past the counter-waves generated by my dampener, they’d see a fully armed and heavily armored Shadowmech running openly through a highly restricted corridor of their secure facility. Within microseconds their uplink would send and alarm to general security, and several dozen even more heavily armed guards would gun me down where I stood.

Believe it or not, I visualized this quite clearly during the eighteenth of a second before I reached the kiosk. Then I ducked into a roll and slid under the desktop, and hopefully under their radar. I held my breath and waited for proximity to pick up the silent alarm.

All clear, it said. Well done.

I don’t have any idea who programmed my proximity analysis hardware to give me little affirmations during a mission. It certainly never used to do that. All the same, I appreciated it.

Thanks, I said, Good job yourself.

I took a few seconds to reorient myself, then appraised the situation again. Nearest viable cover was a garbage receptacle next to the door. It was thirty five yards away. The way I counted, I had a three point eight second window of opportunity, but I would have to override the door lock during that period because the next window would be shorter still.

Oh well. Here we go again.


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