The safe-house itself was a turn of the century structure that dated back to the early years of the colony. The front garden was strewn with weeds and the brickwork around the gate was crumbling.
Captain Niazi’s face appeared in a vidwindow in the corner of Penny’s vision. [Long-range scans detected nothing on the infra-red or ultraviolet spectrums. Harmonics and electro-magnetic scans also came up empty.]
Penny nodded and the droid’s head nodded with her. [They don’t want wildlife tripping the alarm and putting everyone on edge for no reason. Our first hurdles won’t appear until we’re at the front door.]
Penny kept the droid’s sensors scanning in the background as she approached. But before she rose the last three brick steps to the front door she stopped and knelt down to test them. Penny placed a finger on the back of the leftmost brick on the first row and pressed it down like she was trying to play a piano key from the back of the keyboard. The brick didn’t budge.
Penny turned her thoughts towards the droid’s CPU. [Test every brick on the stairs in the same manner.] She commanded.
The droid responded with the voice of an eager secretary. [Acknowledged.]
Penny left the machine to continue its task. [Any activity from the inside?]
[Nothing.] Captain Niazi replied. [The usual amount of gawkers are standing around the cordon but the target itself is silent.]
[Alright.] Penny said and heard the chime indicating the droid had finished its task. [Looks like the steps are clear. I’m going to try the front door.]
Without rising from her kneeling position Penny reached out with the droid’s arm and pointed at the door. [Laser Microphone].
The droid’s index finger opened up and shined an invisible beam at the door, the beam picked up the vibrations in the air created by sounds on the other side of the door and translated them back into sounds Penny could hear. Quiet nothingness met her ears.
Penny turned off the laser and pressed the droid’s fingertips against the wood. [Finger drills.]
At her command, a needle-thin tendril extended from the droid’s middle finger and began to burrow through the wood. When it had finished burrowing, the tiny drill head opened up and exposed a camera on the end of the flexible tendril. Penny pushed the camera through the door and got a 160º view of the room beyond.
Inside the safehouse looked like tidied up squalor. Fibreboard panels boarded up sections of the walls, ceiling and floor. Penny recognised the tactic. She noticed a particularly large fibreboard sheet covering a slice of the floor, barely three paces from the entrance.
[So.] Captain Niazi began. [How many of those panels are concealing booby traps?]
[One or two, tops] Penny said.
For good measure she scanned the room with the droid’s more advanced sensors but came up empty.
Penny withdrew the tendril back into the droid’s finger, stood up and stuck its other index finger into the lock on the door. The automatic pick cycled the tumblers on the old mechanical lock and the droid turned the knob with its other hand and gently pushed the door ajar.
[And… everybody take a deep breath…] Penny said. When the safehouse failed to detonate into a billion pieces she continued. […and it looks like I don’t gotta buy the Federation a new disposal droid].
Before she swung the door open any further Penny swept her tendril camera up and down the length of the door, looking for any stray string or wire connected to it. The classic ‘baby’s first boobytrap’ was to attach a length of the string to the end of a door and the other end to the key on a grenade.
Rodgers was leagues ahead of a basic trick like that, but Penny was NOT going to get caught out by an amateur tactic just in case he decided to shake things up.
When Penny found nothing she opened the door about halfway, making sure not to allow it to swing shut or fly open. But before she could actually step droid foot into the room she knelt down again and drilled into the floor with the tendril camera.
[No pressure switch under the threshold.] Penny reported. [I’m taking my first step inside.]
[Geez.] LC Amrah groaned, his face appearing below the Captain’s. [We’ve been on site for an hour and you’re only now stepping inside.]
Captain Niazi answered before Penny could. [You want to be standing in a cloud of brick-dust and dirt? Let the woman work.]
[Thank you Captain.] Penny smiled. [I used to build these things back in the war Amrah. We used every trick in the manual, no matter how basic. You’d be surprised how often the old tricks still work.]
Penny took the droid another tentative step into the room and knelt down yet again in front of the long sheet of fibreboard. [For instance. This one time, when we knew the Periphery troops liked to smash their way in on their raids, we cut out a space big enough to fit a couch just in from the doorway, covered it with a 3mil sheet of fibreboard and then placed a couple of mines at the bottom of the hole. When the raid team busted in their entire entry team rushed right into the hole and got blown into hamburger meat.]
[But Rodgers knows we wouldn’t do that.] Captain Niazi said. [He’s got to know the Marine Corps is more methodical than a bunch of rookie militia.]
[And yet.] Penny said, looking at the sheet. [Here it is.]