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The dumb fuzzer is smarter than its name implies, and after it got the drop on Pomona one too many times she took a golf club to it and left without another word. Welch bent its thick pipe-cleaner legs back into place with a needlenose as best he could. Now it’s tottering around and trying to fuzz the cat.

The cat objects.

“How else am I supposed to identify vulnerabilities in my home?” Welch asks. “If the choice is between love and security–well, this is the real world, right?”

His phone hisses white noise, carefully excised of unsafe words.


“Hi,” says the kid as Welch passes him.

“Hello,” says Welch. He smiles.

Around the corner there’s a pair of them–twins? “Hi,” says one, and “hi,” says the other.

“Hello,” says Welch. “Hello.” He starts to walk around them, but they block his path. Awareness prickles his back, then; Welch spins in a panic, but the scriptkiddies are already surrounding him.

“Hi. Hi. Hi.”

“Hello. Hello!” Welch gasps, trying to keep up. He can feel himself slowing down. “Please–stop–hello!”

They close in without hurry, their eyes empty but for a cool curiosity.

“Hi,” they say. “Hi hi. Hi.”