The way the killer had tortured and murdered the child was indeed thorough and very detailed, and this was why Federal Agent Robot 51020472 had been called into the investigation, which was now nationwide.
Of course models had already been produced as to the psychology of the killer as well as where they would strike next, but there was nothing quite as satisfying as being on the streets and hunting the quarry in the same way they hunted their victims. Most robots had been programmed to take some amount of satisfaction in what they did; after all, it was either that or limit their AI.
FA-51020472 was therefore very pleased to be at one of the locations which had been identified as a likely choice for the killer, a busy shopping mall. Of course it would be crowded and packed with families. Children could easily let go of their parent’s hand, be distracted by something, run off to look at it and then all of a sudden they’re lost, looking around with wide eyes, wondering where their parents are.
Like that boy over there, all alone, eyes searching. A man walked by, bumped into the boy and apologised, laughing. The boy looked up, startled. The man laughed and said something else. The boy looked uncertain. The man smiled and spoke again, the boy smiled a bit and then looked away, scanning the crowds again. The man asked the boy a question and the boy looked uncertain then replied. The man said something, looked at his watch, then shrugged his shoulders and said something again. The boy nodded his assent, and the two of them walked away together.
FA-51020472 took an interest in this man. It accessed various databases but came up with nothing of note; the man appeared to have had a relatively average childhood, got average grades, got a series of dead-end jobs. Such was life these days, unless you had inherited some memories or could afford to buy them. There were pirate copies of course, but they were of dubious quality and people took risks by plugging them into their brains. Well, each to their own.
Speaking of which, this man had a memory implant. It was embedded in his skull; archaic technology. FA-51020472 searched for a model number based on the electrical signature but couldn’t find one…very interesting.
The man led the boy down to an underground car park; FA-51020472 did not need to follow however, since the memory implant had such a unique electronic signature. Talk about amateurish! The car was traced to an abandoned steel mill on the edge of the city, yet another cliché. FA-51020472 nevertheless dutifully recorded all the details, filing them away for the prosecution team. Every detail counted.
The robot watched the man drag the boy out of the car and slap a sedative patch on the child’s neck. He watched him carry the child into one of the outbuildings. Via infra-red the robot watched the man lay the child out onto a table then fetch a holdall which, switching to x-ray, the robot could see was filled with a number of tools and a small parcel containing surgical instruments. The man took out the parcel and unrolled it carefully.
FA-51020472 now had enough evidence to establish that the man had kidnapped the child and intended to do it harm; whether or not this man was the killer it was looking for was irrelevant, it had this killer to deal with now.
It descended from where it had been viewing its quarry, halting momentarily when it was lined up with one of the building’s windows, and accelerated rapidly so that it shot through the glass like a bullet. In the seconds in which the shards of glass were still flying and it was turning its carapace to face the table it saw the man dive to the floor, taking the bag of tools with him.
There was a gun in that bag of tools, a gun with armour piercing bullets. Truly a stupid error; it was not going to prevent the man’s arrest or trial but would be used as evidence that he intended to cause harm. FA-51020472 let him fumble with the gun, take aim and squeeze off a shot, continuing to record everything as it lazily dodged the bullet in mid-air.
Then FA-51020472 shot forwards, firing a volley of rubber bullets to first concuss the man, sending him reeling, before slamming him into the ground with a powerful bolt from its web-cannon. The man cracked his head upon the ground with some force, such was the nature of how he fell. He convulsed, and blood began to leak out of his ear. This was unfortunate; there would be no trial if the man died, besides which, there would be no way of knowing how many people he’d actually killed. Unless…
FA-51020472 hurriedly messaged the head office, seeking dispensation for special measures. Paperwork that used to take days or weeks was now a thing of the past, and the robot negotiated and obtained the necessary permission within moments. A number of panels slid open on the robot’s casing as it glided down to the man’s twitching body. His breathing indicated that he was still conscious, just not in control.
Checking that the boy was still under and would not witness what it was about to do, the robot extruded four spider like legs and, taking the man’s head in three of them, used the other to cut a line around the top of his skull. It lifted the skull from the head, noting the wet sucking sound as it did so, then scanned the exposed brain.
Once it had recorded the arrangement of every wrinkle, neuron and synapse, it moved around and peered into the human’s eyes. This next part had to be recorded carefully, and in as much detail as possible. It had to know if the memory implant was solely responsible or if the man had any control over his own actions. Watching the pupils, monitoring the heartbeat, recording sweat, heat, pheromones etc the robot reached through the soft, yielding flesh of the brain and pulled out the implant chip. There was no change at first, then after a moment the man’s pupils dilated, seeking information.
The robot allowed the emergency medical teams to take over since it had already thoroughly examined the crime scene and submitted all necessary evidence. The memory implant chip would be analysed, and the man would likely be detained in a secure mental facility once he recovered from his impromptu brain surgery until his trial.
There had been no model number, an unrecognisable electronic signature. What was on that chip?
An alert came in from a utility robot working in another part of the city.
Another body had been found, same MO.