“Stay here,” I told Jiana, getting out of the car.

She looked at me sadly. “Where would I go?”

“Oh…sorry, I forgot.” Good one, Strake. Why don’t you go burn down an orphanage for an encore. I moved seven hundred meters forward, then crawled to the top of a low rise.

There was a Marauder sentry ahead. He had the blank glassy-eyed look of one of their meat-puppet troops—augmented humans who were “driven” by a Marauder AI while on duty. Marauders never could fully trust anyone who was still meat.

However, that meant there was also a Marauder automech around. Somewhere close; the high-bandwidth carrier for the control signal had a very short range. I pulled out my Optica and punched up passive radio scan, got a fix. Then I crawled a few yards down the hill and took another fix to triangulate. Then I flipped it over to binoc and held it to my eyes, looking around until I found him.

If I could take him out silently, the puppet would just collapse. The problem would be doing it before he could raise an alarm.

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