Jill looked at Ethan. Ethan nodded and spoke before she could say something that would make their work more difficult. “I would like to make a side trip first,” he said. “We can’t send deMartin’s troops out without giving them a fighting chance.” Jill raised an eyebrow. For once, she was not dictating what they needed to do, and she was a little leery of what Ethan had in mind, though she agreed in her heart that they had to do something.
“What was the objective in this battle?” The Colonel asked.
“The building beyond the battle is a relay station that William has determined to be the critical point. Obviously, the AI understand this as well. We did not expect them to be guarding this place with everything they have got.”
“Yes,” William interrupted. “If we can get into the system and reprogram the relay, we can shut down every type one robot on the planet. It will not end the war, but there are not that many type two Androids yet. It should at least give us a fighting chance.”
Ethan jumped up and realigned the view screen. He zoomed in on a distant building. “Destroying it won’t help?” he asked.
“No!” All three locals shouted, before Devon explained. “William says destroying it will send the type ones into a state of confusion where they will probably start killing everyone and everything, human and android alike.”
“Birds, animals, anything that moves.” William said. “Our only hope is to reprogram it first and send the program across the system. Then we can shut it down, safely.”
“Destroying it at that point might be safest.” Devon concluded. “So it can’t be re-reprogrammed.”
“Is there hope for us?’ Kera Ann asked in a most forlorn voice. She, alone, really understood that this was out of line.
Jill said nothing. She just reached out and gave the girl a big hug, and Ethan said, “Oh, boy!”
Ethan guided the point of contact to another world and set it to hover over the Ridgetop hospital.
“If we are going to help, we have the soldiers but not the equipment.” He explained without looking at her. He did not want her frown to interrupt his thoughts. “We need the weapons to overcome the obstacles, and I am sure Doctor Augustus will be glad to get rid of them.”
“The Elders are not going to like this.” Jill shook her head.
“A commando raid,” Ethan responded, and in a sense pleaded with Jill not to object even though he was looking at the Colonel. “Quick in and quick out.”
“That might work if you can get us close enough,” DeMartin agreed.
Ethan spoke into the projector, which took his image and voice into the lounge where Kera Ann, Devon and William were waiting, nervously. “Sit tight. We only need permission.” He adjusted the projector to the holding tank where the soldiers were waiting as patiently as soldiers can wait. Jill, Ethan and deMartin were all projected there. “Does your army know the phrase, “Hurry up and wait?” Ethan asked.
“Not in so many words,” DeMartin said. “But near enough. DeMarcos?”
“I understand, sir.” DeMarcos saluted, and then they all had to wait for nearly an hour before the expected ambulance came to rest on the roof. Jill made the front door, and the crew exited to Doctor Augustus’ warm greeting.
“Not at all,” Doctor Augustus responded, and he surprised them by adding, “I think I had better come along on this trip. You may need my skills.” Jill reached up and kissed the man on the cheek in gratitude.
It was another hour before the soldiers were unloaded and at the warehouse. Ethan had pried open a case of rifles while Lars, Manomar, Peter Alexander and Colonel deMartin got the pick of the litter. Even Ali Pasha armed to do his duty, as he said, while Ethan picked up a rifle and climbed to where he could be seen and heard by all.
“This is a microwave pulse emitter, about two chits in advance of anything those androids appear to have, and here is how it works.”
Two hours later, Ethan slid the dime-sized front door of the ship through a crack in a window and floated slowly down the hall. It took another hour to locate all of the cameras and watch equipment and set all of the doors for the three-man commando units to activate at the same time.
Jill and Ethan looked aghast. They had not thought of that. It was easy enough for the ship to check with a quick scan of the building. They found several booby traps, which were easily disarmed. Jill and Ethan breathed again.
When they were ready, Ethan pushed the first button. Several groups of soldiers had to climb up from the floor, and two had to drop down on ropes from the ceiling, but it was less than sixty seconds before all watchers, the eyes and ears of the enemy, were shut down. Now the androids would have no way of knowing what was going on inside the building.
Ethan pushed the second button, and the ship’s particle and energy screens extended to encompass the whole structure. DeMartin still needed to get men to the building perimeter to be safe, but the robot troops that were continuing to scrounge around the battlefield would not be able to break back into the building. On the other hand, the robots inside the screens would not be able to break out, and that was where deMartin and his men would have a real fight. It would have been a simple matter for Ethan to send out a little energy pulse and deactivate them all, but Jill would not let him go that far.
“We have already stepped way out of bounds here,” she said. Ethan noticed her stiff upper lip. She knew full well, some men would die because of her decision.
Jill opened the door for William, Devon and Kera Ann to get at the central control system with their program already loaded on to a portable drive. Lars, Manomar, Alexander and Ali Pasha went with them as well as their trusty Sergeant and his two companions from the automobile. It was a simple matter to start the program, but it would take time to download, and, of course, as soon as the new information started to go out into the relay system, and the booby traps failed to trigger, every robot in the place started for the control room.
“This will restore the “Help and do no harm” directive in the AIs worldwide,” William said. “It won’t affect the type twos, but there aren’t that many androids yet, and the factories have all been sabotaged so they can’t make any more, yet.”
“This will give us a better than half chance of survival.” Kera spoke through her tears of gratitude. A near one hundred percent chance of success, Ethan calculated, but the world would be a very different and depopulated place.
They soon heard microwave guns going off in the corridors close to the control room. Jill chose not to look. Ethan had his finger poised over the hot button, prepared to place a second screen around just the control room if necessary, but Ali Pasha came in the door first.
“It is done,” he reported, and there was sudden silence throughout the building. Ethan relaxed and Jill dropped her face into her hands, prepared to grieve for the dead. That moment, however, was interrupted by a streak of white light that came in through the door. Ali Pasha shouted, something flew from his hand, which Ethan immediately identified as a weapon, and then there was simply a smudge on the ground where the man had once been.
A second figure, one dressed in a cloak came through the door, stepped to the Main, raised his wrist and began to tap on his watch. A third figure followed. It was a Neanderthal, and Jill jumped up to stand beside Ethan.