The disposal android stretched out both arms and burrowed its tendril cameras into the windows’ metal frames. It repeated this process a few times, checking various places on the frame. Finally it stopped.
[Power cable found, deploying micro-droid.]
[Understood.] Penny replied. She turned to Marines. [Hang tight boys and girls. It’s using the micro.]
[Hang tight she says.] Amrah sighed, suspended against the wall beside her. [Ten steps ahead of you Ranger.]
Being as tiny as it was, the micro-droid covered ground like a snail through wet concrete. But nothing else could trace the cable to the system that ran it and report back to them. Severing the power was simple enough, but if the trip-lasers were hooked up to a dead man’s switch powering them down would trip the bomb anyway. So they waited.
After a brief eternity the Android spoke again. [System found. No countermeasures detected. No redundancy systems detected.]
Penny took another deep breath. [De-power laser-matrix].
While the disposal android recalled its micro-droid it turned the tendril camera towards the power-cable and used its drill-heads to gently carve through the line.
[Matrix de-powered. System is off-line. Scanning for further anomalies.]
[Check the lock.] Penny ordered.
The droid inserted its tendril cameras into the frame around the lock. [Lock appears to be a generic commercial model. No anomalous additions detected.]
The droid remove its hand from the door frame and a plasma torch emerged from its forearm. With two brief passes the door was removed from the frame via lock and hinges and the droid pulled the whole thing right out.
[Continue inside.] Penny ordered. [Sweep and clear.]
Penny and the marines cautiously descended to the balcony and followed the droid inside. Unlike the trap house the apartment still looked like human beings lived within its walls. The curtains were closed, shrouding the apartment in darkness, but with their helmets’ low-light optics they could see everything inside plain as day. A couch sat opposite the entertainment unit, plates and glasses sat in kitchen sink with streaks of gravy still on them.
[Threat detected.] The Disposal droid warned. [Multi-frequency laser trip-mine behind front door.]
Penny looked over at the front door and saw it. The mine had been adhered to the wall beside the door. It was a standard Federal fragmentation mine, deadly if tripped, but only to the first three people to barge through the door and Penny couldn’t see any wires leading out of it towards another explosive. The mine was it.
[Disable the mine]. Penny ordered.
Penny and the Marines crouched behind whatever they could find while the droid got to work. Just in case it screwed up.
When the droid reported that the mine had been disabled everyone finally relaxed.
“Alright.” Penny breathed aloud. “Scan through the rest of the rooms, report anything else you find and then proceed to disable it. Nobody open any doors or cupboards unless you get the droid to do it for you.”
[I’ll send in the spare droid.] Said Captain Niazi. [Don’t want you out there all day.]
[Much obliged Captain.] Penny replied.
Amrah followed the droid as it moved to check out the bedrooms. The remaining marines milled quietly about. Trying not to touch anything.
Penny sighed and leaned against a wall.
Then she noticed something. Sitting on the edge of the dining room table. A dark rectangle the size of a cigarette packet. Penny froze.
She glanced at the Marines and saw them looking aimlessly about. Still waiting for the all clear.
She waited and her eyes repeatedly flicked back towards the dark object.
Then finally the droid jumped back on the secure channel.
[No further anomalies detected.]
Penny failed to hide her loud exhale. “Okay people. Start going through everything, but be extra careful.”
“Roger that.” The nearest Marine said and the squad spread out to check the rest of the apartment.
When she was sure they had their backs to her Penny carefully made her way over to the table and got a closer look at the object.
Her heart jumped into her throat. It was exactly what she’d thought it was.
A musty, leather bound book. The kind one could carry in a breast pocket. And inlaid into the cover in gold were the words ‘The Code of the West.’
Penny had an exact duplicate of it in her Headspace.
With a trembling hand she reached out and opened the cover. She stopped. Written on the first page in permanent marker were the words ‘We need to talk Little Lady’ and the contact details for an online space.
With one final glance at the Marines to make sure they weren’t looking, Penny swiped the book off the table and hid it in her medtech pouch.
Penny waited until she was back onboard the Ravenwing and Wu had been locked in his quarters for the night. She sat herself down on the couch in the mess hall and waited some more.
Starring down at the beaten-up old book Penny felt her heart pound against her ribs.
Jamming her eyes shut she slammed the book down on the table. “Knock it off.” She whispered to herself. She forced herself to swallow and slow her breathing.
Only when she had everything under control did Penny open the book up again and take a photo of the Headspace’s details through her nanoputer.
Then she rested her shoulders against the back of the couch and turned her attention inward.