Ms. Harrison sat quietly in a rundown inner city apartment, the table before her and the chair she sat in being the only furniture in the room. Directly across from her four objects were obscured beneath black sheets. Harrison brushed a lock of brunet hair out of her eye and sighed as she leaned on her hand. Before long, she checked her watch; both it and the suit she wore suggested she was not accustomed to waiting long for anything. Her host had already kept her waiting 15 minutes.
The door behind her then opened as a well-dressed man quietly let himself into the apartment. He was balding and pale, and a pair of glasses sat crookedly on his nose as he locked the door behind him.
“I’m terribly sorry for the delay, Ms. Harrison,” he said as he crossed to the other side of the table, “as well as for these dreadful accommodations. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my employer’s business, things need to remain away from prying eyes.”
The man reached out and offered a handshake. Harrison paused for a few moments, but eventually accepted. His hand was both cold and clammy, immediately making Harrison regret the decision.
“I am Mr. Saker,” he said with a small smile. “Shall we begin your consultation meeting?”
“I’m confused,” Harrison replied, “I thought I was meeting Anderson today.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Ms. Harrison.” Saker shook his head. “Some of our competitors are not exactly known for playing fair, and as such Anderson is only seeing to matters of the utmost importance. No, I’m afraid it’s just me for today.”
“If that’s how it has to be, I guess…” Harrison sighed. She then looked over at the objects covered by the sheets, tilting her head to the side as she stared.
“Anyway,” Saker began as he noticed her interest, “The fact that you were able to contact us to arrange this meeting shows that you are both trustworthy and have the money necessary for the purchase of one of our droids. May I ask what specifically you are looking for, Ms. Harrison?”
“Why don’t you show me what you have and I’ll tell you if anything catches my eye.”
“Very well,” Saker said with a shrug. He then reached in to his pocket and placed on the table what appeared to be three small black rubber balls, each with a single red dot at their center. The balls quickly turned on their own so the red dots were facing Harrison.
“These little guys are our Amur Series Recon Drones. Think of them as a sort of spy bot.” Saker then snapped his fingers, causing the balls to spin to face him. “Amur Series, Demo!”
Each of the balls then began to roll around the table, stopping every now and then to produce a set of four needle-like legs and crawl for a moment before retracting the appendages and resuming their rolling motion.
“Each of these guys is capable of recording up to 48 hours of video or audio. They can change color to camouflage with their surroundings and have the ability to scale sheer surfaces. Each can produce a small needle for the injection of medication, or something a little more lethal if you choose. They are available individually or in packs of three. Each is programmable to follow commands from only your voice, as is standard on all our models.”
Harrison watched as one rolled over and proceeded to crawl around her hand. She gingerly placed the miniature droid back on the table as she smiled.
“Astounding, but not really what I am looking for,” she said. Saker nodded, and gathered the droids before him on the table. He then approached two of the sheet covered objects and stood between them as he lightly tugged the covering off both.
The object on his left stood no taller than about 60 centimeters and resembled a large black vase with a lid. Four thick spidery legs emerged from its bottom as it stood up, increasing its height by a meter. A thin red line formed a ring around its middle, emitting a faint light. Side panels opened up to reveal what appeared to be four gun barrels.
The object on his right resembled a small jet plane, less than two thirds a meter long with about one third of a meter wingspan. At the center of each wing was a rotor that reminded Harrison of a helicopter. The rotors began quietly spinning as the droid began to hover. A small camera emerged from a panel on the droids underside and focused on Harrison as the rest of the droid hung in the air.
“Perhaps you are more interested in security, then,” Saker said as he pointed to the two new droids. “The one on my left is our Aplomado Series Facility Defense Unit. It can be equipped with a variety of armaments, possesses thermal imaging and comes equipped with a thick bullet proof shell. The one on my right is our Merlin Series Aerial Drone. It too has thermal imaging capabilities, can be equipped with a variety of armaments and is also capable of recording up to 96 hours of video. In addition it is virtually silent during flight and is invisible to all forms of recording devices. Both droids are capable of networking with each other and with other droids of their series to provide a comprehensive security system. As always, both are programmable to follow commands from only your voice.”
“Those’re… well, those’re a little extreme for what I have in mind. I don’t think I’ve ever been in need of this kind of fire power…” Harrison chuckled. Saker laughed briefly and then nodded, the two droids returning to standby as he then moved to the right, towards another sheet covered object.
“I sometimes forget that not all of our clients need such a high degree of security or privacy,” he said as he pulled away the sheet. “Perhaps something a little more domestic, yes?”
Beneath the sheet was a small cube vaguely resembling a tiny leather foot stool. Just as with the Aplomado, four spidery legs emerged from its base as it stood up, reaching about a meter in height. A large blue slit on its front appeared to form its eyes. From its back emerged four thin metal arms, each with a claw attached. One of the arms extended across the room towards Harrison, offering a handshake. Harrison giggled as she enthusiastically accepted.
“This is our Kestrel Series Domestic Utility Unit,” Saker grinned. “Each comes equipped with a standard four arms, but can be equipped with more for an additional cost. The standard arms can extend up to four meters and are equipped with a camera so that the droid may see what it is doing. Specialty arms are available for a variety of tasks. The droid is programmable so it may learn a multitude of domestic skills.”
“This is definitely the right direction,” Harrison smiled, “but, don’t you have anything a little more… relatable?” Saker raised his eyebrows.
“Humanoid?” he asked.
“That would be preferable,” she replied. Saker gave a triumphant grin as he approached the final sheet.
“You’re in luck Ms. Harrison, as I have saved the best for last. Allow me to introduce you to our most popular model, the Peregrine Series Humanoid Utility Droid!” Saker enthusiastically ripped away the final sheet to reveal what looked almost like a crash test dummy sitting in a chair, but covered in a skin of sturdy black fabric. Two white plastic disks that appeared to serve as eyes stared blankly at Harrison as the droid lifted its left arm and waved. A red serial number, 045, was visibly stitched into its arm.
“Evening Ms. Harrison,” the droid replied in a computerized voice.
“Each PSHUD comes equipped with our specialized aramid covering and self-repair capabilities. Complete fluency and literacy in three languages is standard, but more can be programmed in for a small fee. In addition, each PSHUD unit is equipped with a highly advanced artificial intelligence and one of our seven preprogrammed personalities. These personalities evolve and adapt based on your use of the droid, and as such they have a unique capacity to form relationships not seen in our other droids.”
Saker paused as he placed a hand on the droid’s shoulder. Harrison crossed the room and knelt down beside the droid, lightly taking its hand in hers before looking back up to her host and beckoning him to continue.
“On top of all that, we have several modules for a variety of skills that can be programmed into each droid, from combat to house work. This is by far our most flexible model yet. If you want, you can give your PSHUD permission to issue commands to any of our other droid models on your behalf. It can serve as a command unit for your Merlins, Aplomados and Amurs, or a foreman for your Kestrels.” Saker scratched the back of the droid’s head. “Indeed, these are my favorites.”
Harrison nodded in agreement. She returned to her feet and looked at all the other droids, and then back to the PSHUD.
“I think you might have a sale, Mr. Saker,” she said. “However, I would like to know whether I’ll be taking my purchase home with me today, or waiting to receive my new droid at a later date. Are these units ready to go?”
“I’m afraid not,” Saker frowned. “These are just our demo models. No armaments, no modules, no personality, just the most basic of our programming. You’re looking at the shells we will be adding your features onto.”
“Excellent,” Harrison smirked. “This makes my job much easier.” She then proceeded to draw a pistol from her jacket pocket, her finger on the trigger as she trained the weapon on Saker. She then spoke towards a microphone hidden on her person. “All clear control, send in the team!”
Saker looked down at the gun unamused.
“Ms. Harrison, you lied to me,” he sighed as he shook his head.
“I’d be more worried about putting my hands behind my head and getting to the floor if I was you,” Harrison snapped back. Saker refused.
“Now who do you work for? Not the Global Occult Coalition since this building has yet to be firebombed into oblivion. Those thieves working for Prometheus wouldn’t have tried something this direct, and MC&D’s men would have already made a bulk deal. Guess that makes you Foundation personnel…”
“Get down!” Harrison interrupted. Saker sighed again as he complied.
“We were wondering when the Foundation would try a stunt like this. Congratulations for being able to set up this meeting and for getting this far without tripping any alarms. Honestly, considering how long you guys have been slicing up 31, Anderson thought it would have been much sooner.”
“Quiet” Harrison shouted. Saker shook his head again.
“I’m sorry for having to do this. All units, activate Foundation protocol.”
The room then filled with a horrific shriek, forcing Harrison to cover her ears in pain. As she looked around her to try and find the source she was horrified to find all the droids were falling apart. The Amur units flattened and melted into small piles on the table. The Aplomado tipped over, its tough exterior cracking before shattering into a thousand pieces, revealing the interior had already disintegrated into rust. The Merlin came lightly tumbling down to the floor as a cloud of dust. The Peregrine’s skin shriveled and the plastic casing underneath bubbled up through the fabric. Each continued to issue its own high pitched screech until the room became quiet, save for the sound of Saker’s laughter.
Harrison turned to him, and gasped. His skin was melting away into a white froth that became more and more pink as blood joined the mix. Beneath this a plastic skeleton became visible, resembling the PSHUD without its fabric skin. Before long this too had melted away. The laughter ceased and the room fell into silence.
Harrison looked around at the various black puddles around her. Any second the rest of the sting team would come barging in, but it would be of no use. Anderson had once again proven to have the upper hand.