The laser ranging back and forth across the landscape betrays its approach. The machine makes no noise as it picks its way through the former suburb on six insect legs, looking for evidence of intrusion. It scans, measuring everything it can, and submits the data to central control. Scan, send. Scan, send.
"ALERT: 30 meters in a heading of 23.3°, investigate car. Current height 3.5 inches lower than last baseline. Threat Assessment: 21% likely; Pre-emptive Action Threshold: 35% certainty."
Backtracking, it carefully moves between the parked cars, trying not to move anything lest another round of detailed measurements are needed. Fully around the car. A probe enters through a missing rear window sniffing the air, scanning for infrared signatures.
"All four tires are now flat. All else appears normal."
"Likelihood that this was caused by intruders: 1.3%. Cease investigation and continue patrol."
Scan, send. Scan, send. No unauthorized personnel have been detected in this sector in over a year. No one's lived here in a decade.
"Implementing standing order 3.A.1!"
A well place grenade fired from its lower 40mm tube takes out the deer as it darts across the street. The windows rattle. You cannot allow potential food sources to fall into the hands of the enemy.
"White-tailed deer – female, approximately two years of age – destroyed."
"Confirmed, continue patrol."
Scan, send. A storm rolled through here a few days back, but anything that would have blown down probably did so quite some time ago. Didn't do much to alleviate the drought, though. Formerly well-manicured lawns are no longer in evidence. Scan, send.
"ALERT: House at 5310 Valley Court registers an anomalous temperature reading 2.8°C higher than accounted for by baseline measurements. Threat Assessment: 80% likely; Pre-emptive Action Threshold: 90% certainty. Execute external inspection."
Robots don't express frustration. This one pauses while it reconfigures to allow for quicker reaction time. Routines loaded into memory, weapons readied.Scan, send. No explicit heat signatures detected at the front of the house. The right side registers slightly higher, most likely due to the sun. IDS-38-A-5 begins a counter-clockwise rotation around the house. Sending cameras to look in windows.
Scan, send. As it rounds the corner, the machine notes that the skyline behind the house is significantly altered from the baseline. It steps over the back fence and immediately spots a large tree that disintegrated nearly to sawdust upon impact with the ground.
"ALERT: Likelihood elevated temperature in the house is caused by greater exposure to the sun after collapse of the tree: 93.9%. Cease inspection and continue patrol."
There's a lot of ground to cover, no need to follow up low percentage cases.
Scan, send. Scan, send. Scan, send.
"God dammit, I told you this was a bad idea!"
"No, no, we're set. Don't you get it? They've accounted for our heat in the new baseline. As long as we lay low, we should be fine for a couple of days."
"Fuck, those things creep me out. We could use the rest, though, and I certainly don't want to return to those hills anytime soon."
"You and me both, now lets go see if there's anything edible left of that deer."