At first Lexel and Zero traveled in complete silence, but after a few blocks the growing pressure of so many questions soon became too much. Zero was the first to break the self imposed quiet that had trailed them after fleeing the scene of their almost-ambush. Cautiously he considered their surroundings, he was still wary from the last encounter, as they tucked around a corner.
“I am unable to identify our attackers; there is no previous record of them within my database,” Zero informed Lexel with an almost audible edge of regret in his voice. “But their attack pattern is consistent with an attempted removal of a target using stealth; however I can not conclude which one of us was the likely target. It is likely that either they did not anticipate my presence or the effectiveness of my defensive capabilities.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you talk a bit much,” Lexel interrupted. “Seriously, you are probably the chattiest robot I have ever heard of! Not that I have heard of all that many talking robot dogs mind you, but I figure there can’t be another one who talks so much.”
Zero’s optics narrowed in as close of an approximation to blinking as Lexel presumed the curious creation could manage. “Is there something wrong with my speech? I could alter my response parameters to meet a more concise format if you prefer. My base programming requires me to provide extensive feedback on my experiences and to provide assistance in its analysis.”
“Spoken like a true ‘bot; that is something we are going to have to work on. It is going to be a dead give away that your some advanced tinker-toy fresh from a R&D lab.” Lexel shuffled her feet as she looked around, the corner of her mouth pulled tight as she failed to completely mask her growing worry. “Just tell me, as simply as you can; is it possible that those two back there were only meant to deal with me? I mean, didn’t you say they did not seem adequately armed to confront you?” Lexel had to ask, as much as she hated to hear herself say the words. The little voice inside her was certain that it wouldn’t take a fully armed strike team to deal with one little old girl, and it wasn’t exactly being polite about it either.
“Yes,” Zero began to reply after a brief pause to ‘blink’ again. Lexel hoped he wasn’t doing it solely for her benefit because she found the whole act somewhat disturbing. “It is a sound assumption that you might have been the primary target as the weapons brought to bear were better suited for dealing with soft or lightly armored targets at close range. However, it is also possible that my reaction impaired our adversary’s ability to make full use of their tactical strengths.”
“Please tell me that was the short version,” Lexel said with a groan. She had to hold a finger up to gesture for Zero not to answer because she was sure the verbal wonder would do so if she did not. As she found her other hand firmly pressed against her forehead she had to push the image out of her mind of her mother in a similar pose. It was anything but helpful right now and truthfully she hated comparing herself to her mother.
“Okay,” Lexel sighed, trying to order her thoughts. “Let’s review; we don’t know what attacked us. We have no real idea even which one of us they were after for sure. Does that about cover everything?”
“It bears stating that if you were the primary target that without my intervention our attackers would have been successful,” Zero added. Lexel couldn’t argue there, even though she really wanted to. She had to admit that knowing what Zero could do in a game was one thing but it was quite reassuring to see he was just as skilled in a darkened alleyway. And as for herself, well already she was forming a working plan to get them funds she discovered.
Lexel had to confess she never expected to be handling a situation like this nearly as well as she was. Sure there was a part of her that just wanted to hide somewhere and close her eyes until it all went away. But reality had a harsh way of reminding you that nothing was ever that easy. And if life had any more surprises in store for her, well she was determined to at the very least try to prepare herself to meet them.
“Do not be afraid,” Zero’s electronic voice suddenly shattered her train of thought, prompting her to almost jump startled. “If anything moves to threaten you again, I will stop it. I have added a new directive to my primary functions; to protect and defend you from harm.”
Lexel wasn’t sure what to say to Zero about his sudden declaration, but it puzzled her slightly. It didn’t exactly make sense – logically at least. “Why,” she found herself asking the metallic mutt. “Wouldn’t it be more efficient to focus on your own preservation? We aren’t playing games anymore, Zero.”
“You are correct,” Zero confirmed with a nod, his eyes never wavering from hers. “But you are my friend; my core could not resolve the loss of your existence without irreparable damage to it.” The pedigreed prototype ‘blinked’ again and tilted his head slightly as he considered Lexel’s reception to his explanation before remembering what she had said about talking so much. “I do not want to lose you.”
Lexel smiled at the sentiment and more so at the fact Zero seemed to be learning. “Maybe you are pretty smart after all, for a science project that is.”