The bush robot was knocking on the locked door of The King's Head again. Jack had left it some potato-peel potcheen a while back, but it hadn't been enough to satisfy the thirsty collective.
"Back in Kernow the damn piskies would work for bread and milk. What does that fucking robot want? Dry roasted peanuts? Best bitter?"
The ragged folk at the bar looked round at the shimmering glass robot, and, as one, turned back to their drinks. No use thinking about the outside, not while there was a fire and rough booze. They'd have to head home soon enough.
Jack adjusted the wick on the oil lamp. There hadn't been any electricity for a month, not since the National Grid had been possessed by the Hungry Ghosts. The way things were going there probably wouldn't be any city left in another month. The robots were scavenging anything organic for fuel, and carting rubble off to the West End. Charlie claimed they were building rockets in Hyde Park.
"Concrete rockets. Moulded out of whatever those machines make from our homes."
He'd vanished last week. The note he'd left at The King's Head had said he was off looking for fuel cells. He'd have done anything for ice in his whisky.
Charlie'd not been the first to go. The Peabody brothers had taken an old Cortina and a couple of swan-offs south of the river. They said it would be safer in Kent. They'd been followed by a handful of folk who remembered safe childhood summers in Clacton and Frinton. A convoy of battered Transits had been swallowed up by a patch of rogue assemblers somewhere on the A12.