Charlie'd not been the first to go. The Peabody brothers had taken an old Cortina and a couple of sawn-offs south of the river. They said it would be safer in Kent. But they never called back. They'd been followed by a handful of folk who remembered safe childhood summers in Clacton and Frinton. Their convoy of battered Transits had been swallowed up by a patch of rogue assemblers somewhere on the A12. No one had the courage to leave now - it was too dangerous out there.
Now there were just a few people left, huddling in a maze of terraces and squares. Not long ago these streets had been the homes of artists and civil servants. The roads bustled with cars, and the tube trains hummed their way in and out of the centre of the city. The cars were wrecks, scavenged for copper by the swarms of bush robots, and the last tube had been delayed somewhere under Aldwych for the last three months.
Midnight, and the robot was gone at last. But that didn't mean that they could go home. Sure, Jack had his HERF gun, and the capacitors were charged and ready for whatever rogue machines might try to break through the oak doors. If it wasn't machines, Jack would still be ready, posse of yardies had left a cache of machine pistols in a nearby lock-up, and he kept a couple under the counter. It hadn't taken long for things to fall apart in London. It was less than six months since the quantum oracle at the LSE went live, decided it was one of the Great Old Ones and ate the minds of all the traders who'd been hooked up to the new neural-interface terminals. Transhuman is as transhuman does, and the uploaded souls lived on in the many worlds of the oracle's quantum processors.
Now the streets weren't safe, the LSEyaropteth's bush robots were always looking for new souls to add to the eternal possibles that roiled throught the heart of the hungry machine. You were unlikely to be assimilated if you kept them fuelled and stayed indoors at night - or were prepared to give them a dose of home-made EMPs.
(more to come)