Part 4: New Leads
The three of them stood on the beach next to the inactive Arachno-Bot, one of the new models with the turrets. Fred signaled a flatbed truck to back up close to the lifeless mechanical monster. He and the driver then worked quickly to lower the bed and hook it up to the wench. Jill and a member of Fred's team, Robert, watched as the robot was loaded onto the large vehicle. He wore faded jeans, work boots, and a black Ghost In The Shell T-shirt. The sandy blond thirty-something stroked the bushy goatee on his chin and lamented, "You know, it's a real shame."
"I know," Jill replied. "All those women, abducted from this beach and the military could barely even do anything about it."
"Well, there's that too."
Jill stared at him in disbelief, "What?! Then what were you talking about?"
"Look, I know these things are dangerous, but I really wish we could capture one with its CPU still intact."
Robert raised an eyebrow. "Haven't you seen the videos of these things in action? The way they move, the way they react and adapt; machine intelligence that sophisticated is all but unheard of. To have the opportunity to examine all the hardware and software--the lines of code that make it all possible--it'd be like Christmas Morning. Hell, it'd be right up there with having sex with Jessica Alba back in her Dark Angel days."
Jill snorted in annoyance, "Well, we'll pass your compliments along to the psycho that built those damned things."
"I'm not saying I approve of what these machines are being used for," Robert put up his hand defensively. "But give the Devil his due, these things are frickin' masterpieces."
As the truck drove away with its cargo, Fred strolled over with a grin on his face and said, "Well now, anyone want to stop at Dairy Queen on the way back? I could go for a burger and some ice cream."
Jill and Robert exchanged glances and shrugged, and then they all walked to the parking lot.
"Look, all I'm saying is that it might get us some better insights into who made these things." Robert said.
They were sitting around the table at Dairy Queen with what remained of their burgers and fries in front of them. Fred was eating his chocolate dipped ice cream cone while Jill slurped down the last drops of her soft drink.
"Insights?" Jill looked at him curiously.
"Just like with writers and other creative people," Robert continued, "programmers who are passionate about what they do put a little of themselves into the programs they write. If you can examine a program's source code, it's possible to find subtle hints as to who wrote it; the style in which the code is written, maybe even some text tucked away in some comment tags. Either way, the clues are usually there if you're sharp enough to spot them."
They were startled when an Aarchno-Bot burst into the restaurant. The blonde girl at the cash register screamed as it went right for her! Jill, Fred, and Robert ducked under their table as it grabbed her from behind the counter, brought her beneath its chassis, and after injecting her with the paralytic agent, began cocooning her in plastic. The robotic menace strapped the cocooned girl to its back and was about to turn and leave, when Robert sprang out from under the table, ran, and jumped onto it!
The Aarchno-Bot bucked wildly, trying to throw Robert off, but he wrapped his legs around and held on. He reached into his front pocket, and pulled out a small electric screwdriver. Even as the machine intensified its effort to throw him off, he managed to unscrew and open a panel in the unit's head. Robert pulled hard and yanked out a bundle of wires. The Arachno-Bot stopped moving, it made a sputtering noise and then its eight red eye lights went out. As it went limp and sprawled motionless on the floor, Robert climbed up and undid the restraining straps around the cocooned victim. He looked at Fred and called out, "Could you come over here and give me a hand with her?"
Fred came out, hauled himself up to his feet, and walked over to help Robert. Fred held the cocooned girl's ankles while Robert took hold of her shoulders and cradled her head. They lifted her off the Aarchno-Bot's back and gently lowered her to the floor. Jill came over, a pair of EMT scissors in her hand.
"That was amazing," Jill said as she cut the plastic from around the girl's head. "Dangerous, but amazing. Were you in the rodeo or something?"
Robert smiled as he caught his breath. "Spring Break 2009, I rode the mechanical bull at Sam Hill's Saloon. The damned thing went completely haywire and tried to Team Rocket me into the next county. I was holding on for dear life before one of the bouncers finally pulled the plug."
Jill looked at him sheepishly "I've got to admit, you're braver than I gave you credit for."
Robert shrugged. "It's all good."
Fred looked inside the panel with a pocket flashlight. "Looks like you're going to get your wish after all. The CPU's still intact, I've just got to call in another truck to come pick this one up."