What is a Loafer?
A loafer is a type of sentry robot. It's not terribly intelligent on its own, but sophisticated hardware can be attached to it that makes it stealthy and lethal. Want to know what a loafer looks like? A brief description can be found in PodPooch:
They had scarcely taken a step when a sentry loafer floated into view. Its body was painted orange with red stripes, designating compstate security. Three appendages articulated at the midpoint of the cylinder. They held a scanner, a LEMP broadcaster, and a phasewave. The spindly head atop the cylinder rotated as it scanned.
But perhaps more chilling is Grace's first encounter with a loafer in her Frawley apartment. Have a listen to the "Loafer Attack" theme as you read this scene from the novel Port Casper.
Something felt wrong. Adrenaline tingled her fingertips. She slipped her hand into her jacket for Ronnie and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness before stepping into the common room. Was she the paranoid one now? Surely the moment to attack her had passed: the bright hallway no longer blinded her.
Her shoes made no sound on the soft carpet. Up ahead, the privacy wall was open, letting in the night noise. Ambient light gleamed on the furniture.
Grace had never opened the privacy wall.
She clicked through the most likely scenarios. Number one, a problem with the apartment programming caused the privacy wall to open. Number two, somebody had entered her apartment. Number two alpha, somebody was still here. It didn’t matter what number three might be. She decided number two alpha deserved her full attention.
Grace unholstered Ronnie and released the safety. Then she took off her jacket and dropped it soundlessly to the floor. She slowed her breathing and opened herself to the sounds in the apartment. From her position in the common room, she had a view of the kitchen, the entry hall, and the balcony. A few movements assured her of their emptiness. She moved into the hallway, toward her bedroom.
No hint of light or sound came from the bedroom, and Grace realized that the door was shut. Her heartbeat rushed in her ears. She’d left it open this morning.
Grace backed against the wall and kept Ronnie pointed at the door. As long as she waited, she’d have the advantage. The closed door would have kept the intruder from noticing her entrance. She aimed a meter above the ground. There was no way out of her bedroom, except through that door.
She waited for a minute. Still no sound. No light.
Grace fingered her ptenda. She accessed her apartment controls, and set the privacy wall to closed. The sound of the wall snapping shut might alert the intruder. If it didn’t, the newfound quiet would help her hearing.
There was a mechanical whoosh and the apartment fell silent. Three seconds passed. She heard a click. She didn’t recognize the sound. A few more seconds passed. Click. Again. Her prey was a cool customer. No panic. No sudden movements. A professional.
Well, professional, how do you like this? Fingering her ptenda again, Grace turned on the lights in her bedroom.
She was gratified when she heard a hiss, followed by a thud, and then a few scratching sounds.
Grace sprang from the hallway and hit her bedroom door with full force. It buckled easily. Grace had both weapons up and aiming by the time she hit the ground.
But nobody stood in Grace’s bedroom. Instead, a small pile of metal and smoldering electronics rested on the floor. A mangled armature twitched.
“A loafer?” she murmured.
She hadn’t seen a loafer since the academy. They were ancient surveillance drones that patrolled the perimeter. Grace recognized the design and construction. But this was a newer, more advanced model. She tentatively probed it with her right foot. It seemed to be completely inert. She bent over and lifted it up using Ronnie’s barrel. The acrid smell of burnt electronics. It was fried.
“Who the hell sent you!” Grace bellowed.