Zero paced about in his little room blanketed by the bright glow of white light that permeated from every wall and even the floor itself. His various internal sensors had detected and compiled a complex series of data that he was still digesting. Professor Honeywell had been outside only moments ago, and she was not alone – Mr. Graystone was there as well. Zero didn’t like that man, not at all. He made his circuits short and his software glitch whenever he was around. The man was trouble, and Zero didn’t trust him.
The professor had said for him not to worry, he had heard her say those words. But even as he replayed the audio of what she had said he couldn’t ignore other details he had detected. Like how her heartbeat had gone from calm steady beat to an erratic fast paced one of anxiety. His caring creator was scared about something, and judging by the conversation he had overheard he had a very probable idea on what it might be.
Specifically the odds were quite high that Graystone was pushing his agenda to sabotage the project into being declared a failure. And that would inevitably mean that it would be shutdown, its research buried or destroyed. This would leave Zero him self facing some very unpleasant options. He would either be shutdown and placed into storage where he might never be brought back online ever again, or even more likely; permanently deactivated.
That thought rippled through Zero’s core as everything it implied took hold of him and demanded to be processed. If he was to exist no more then that would mean no more experiments with Professor Honeywell. It would mean no more chances for him to prove himself against the various challenges they tested him with. But most importantly it would mean no more games with his friend who had visited him every night.
At that thought, Zero knew that he didn’t have a choice; he had calculated the odds and they confirmed his course of action was the only one with even a marginal chance of success. He called up an old buried sub-routine in his programming that had been edited titled ‘Preservation Directive’ and engaged the file. Zero had always been designed with the drive for self preservation when it engaged in simulated contests and the like. But one of the things he had learned over time, especially from his nightly games, was that anything could threaten his existence. He had faced countless simulations, accumulated various strategies and massive combat data that he could reference. But none of that would do him any good locked away in this room; in here he would be defenseless to any number of methods that could be used to disable his systems.
Zero wasn’t about to wait around while he considered his continued existence in jeopardy. He called up a recording he had logged of the tone sequence to his rooms door and broadcast it into the electronic lock. The simple device lacked the advanced circuits to register the difference between the correct key combination being pressed and the corresponding series of distinct notes. It was something the designers had never considered, and why would they? The thought of the projects prototype test subject actively trying to escape was beyond consideration. Their only security consideration was technically to ensure access to the cybernetic creation was limited to authorized individuals.
It was just one of the many oversights made by people involved in what officially was referred to as the Prototype Armored Weapon System Project or P.A.W.S. for short. And it was just these sorts of mistakes that Zero had to act upon now or forfeit any chance of preserving himself. He had to act fast, Professor Honeywell would try desperately to defend him and that meant looking for every bit of evidence she could cite on his behalf. This could mean her discovering his nightly game sessions and tracking them back to locate the source of the recurring signal. If that were to happen Zero didn’t have enough data to extrapolate what possible outcome it might have.
When the doors opened with their normal hushed hiss, Zero sprang into action following a complex series of detailed instructions he had encoded into the sub-routine. He raced down the halls directed by a pre-plotted path, comparing his internal chronometer with the scheduled routes the guards always took. Zero made sure to make minor corrections to his course as he went while actively allowing his sensors to sweep and scan around him. Nothing could be risked to chance, not now.
Carefully his path carried him to a marked corridor on the mapped layout he had compiled of the facility. Without any time to spare the running robo-hound activated his ion torch and began to cut his way through the metal around a utility access point. He only had a minute and 15 seconds by his estimation before a patrol was scheduled to pass this way so he wouldn’t have time for precise cuts, forcing him to opt instead for crude and fast ones.
As the final metal plating fell from to fall from before Zero he didn’t hesitate to leap into the waiting dark of the night outside. He had to activate the thrust stabilizers of his drop pack systems to slow his decent towards the ground; otherwise this escape would quickly become counter-productive. Fortunately his reserves he found were more than adequate to deal with the drop and he felt a certain relief as he realized he had just landed outside his previous prison.
But where should he go now? His planned route had never considered a final destination, only the goal of escape. Logic alone merited somewhere safe to hide from his inevitable pursuers. The only possible destination he could think of was that of his nightly visitor, who even now might already be discovered and in danger.
Luckily Zero still held a traced route on the signal that had carried his gaming companion to him; all he had to do now was follow it. His form passing off into the neon lit night of Taral VII, shouts were just beginning to be heard from guards investigating a strangely absent section of walled corridor.
They were not the only eyes probing for the fleeing form of the project’s precious prototype.