Mr. Graystone’s booted heel crunched under what remained of a door as stalked his way inside the messy apartment. “Fan out; scan and search for any sign of that meddlesome mutt. I want him found, three cycles ago!” Waiting behind the imposing image that was Graystone a small swarm of drones spread out to obey his uttered command. Floating in mid air metal orbs darted around as beams of light probed and analyzed everything in an orderly manner.
Flanking Graystone on either side a pair of sleek black and chrome plated four legged robots stepped forward as they melded from the shadows. They were his pride and joy, creations he had customized with his own unique tactical needs in mind. He lovingly referred to them as his ‘Greyhounds’ often treating his pets as his own personal covert-ops agents and private enforcers.
The Greyhounds base design had original been built from the tried and true chassis of the New Republic’s Hell Hound model droid. The Hell Hounds were reliable robots in their own right, serving respectfully well in security patrol and even tracker roles. But Graystone preferred something that suited his needs in a more subtle manner, he didn’t trust free thinking subordinates. And he absolutely refused to put his faith in inept underlings who could always develop loose lips or decide to have a change of heart.
All the guards and defenses in place had failed to prevent that pesky prototype from escaping. If not for some of his prowling pets left to patrol the perimeter Graystone would have missed this little opportunity. It was regrettably unfortunate that his Greyhounds had somehow lost the erratic trail left by Unit Zero even if only briefly. The small delay had cost him precious time he could have used to seal the test subject’s fate. But it was of little consequence now, after its escape he could easily press for the project’s cancellation with virtually little chance of even Honeywell being able to make a case for objection.
“He isn’t here,” Graystone muttered to himself in frustration. “I want to know what lead him here, find me everything there is to know about who lives here, now.” He trusted that his little Oracle droids could provide him with a detailed report within a few moments, which would leave his Greyhounds to the task of resuming the hunt. “Hounds target Unit Zero; track and terminate.”
Amber eyes flashed briefly signaling his command had been accepted and understood before the deadly duo silently slipped back into the shadows to obey his order. Graystone always smiled with satisfaction as he watched them go to work, he treasured the fact that they never questioned him. But, then again he had programmed them himself and personally saw to it that there was no way for them to even be able to do so.
“Clear out,” Graystone told his obedient orbs still buzzing around the apartment. “I want that report within the next three minutes and I want all evidence of our visit wiped clean in two.” As he stepped back out through the doorway he couldn’t resist taking a moment to enjoy himself. “Oh, and make sure this door is replaced immediately – have it billed to one of my anonymous accounts. I would hate for anyone to think me rude or inconsiderate.” The notion made him chuckle to himself.
While Graystone was busy delighting in his own humor his Greyhounds was already hard at work hunting their prey. Lexel had only just managed to secure her secret message as she and Zero considered what their next move should be. The pursuing predators carefully approached their target, keeping their sensor masking systems active as they prepared to engage.
Following their primary combat programming the Greyhounds primed Midnighter grenades for release before dropping their masks. The devious devices were designed for covert engagements, once deployed they would blanket the area in thick darkness, completely rendering a target blind. This tactic had served Graystone’s secret soldiers well in safeguarding his interests for a long time.
But the would-be armored assassins had never encountered any prey quite like the prototype Zero. As they moved towards them his advanced sensors registered the distorted motion that some of his other systems couldn’t account for. Something in his circuits made his solder tingle, Zero couldn’t explain it but he found himself instinctively taking a defensive position.
Lexel opened her mouth to question the sudden change in Zero’s demeanor but an explosion of inky blackness engulfed her before the words could form. Terror alone held her mind as she found herself unable to find any trace of light or any idea what was going on at all. She felt a sudden surge of motion around her and the realized she didn’t have any idea what could be attacking them, or if it was after her or Zero.
The muffled sound of metal clanging on metal brushed her ears and Lexel had to resist her imagination from running wild in an attempt to understand what was happening. Unseen in front of her Zero bravely battled the twin terrors. While they held the advantage of on-board weapon systems, Zero quickly found they had sacrificed much of their armored frames in compensation. The Greyhounds lacked the benefit of his resilient frame, of his reinforced chassis designed to far exceed anything his operational requirements might need. They had never been designed for a head on battle like he had, instead they were meant to take advantage of stealth.
Zero lacked the offensive weapons his opponents brought to bear, but there was no matching his brute strength. The Greyhounds attacks met waiting armor and found it defying them, laser blasts barely scorched him when they connected. Other shots went wild as he continually evaded them. After several long moments, Zero maneuvered himself into a final pass between his foes and found both anticipated attacks instead finding a waiting home in their partners.
Still sputtering with sparks the limp bodies of the Greyhounds laid on the alley floor as the grenades induced darkness dissipated. Lexel had to look on in wonder at Zero who was standing triumphantly beside her.
“We, um, I think we should get out of here before something else shows up,” Lexel stammered half to herself. “A logical assessment,” Zero agreed. Together they quickly made their way out of the alley in silence. Lexel couldn’t find the words to address what just happened, but made a note of it to try to as soon as possible. She had to find out what had just happened, and more importantly exactly what she had just gotten herself into.