The pilots have gotten their bots under their control and are now ready for the next phase in the attack strategy. They are meeting that plan with one of their own.
Back to the city yet again, the pilots are charged with activating the final weapon of the first war, if they can find the stations that will start the machine up after its long sleep.
Being outside the bots is difficult for the pilots, but when they begin taking fire, there is nothing that they want more than the safety of their recent metal companions.
Whose plan was this anyway?
Xaia went through everything she knew about where they were going and what needed to be done. The focus of their mission went through her with every step.
Using old technology wasn’t the most comfortable situation, but now there was no choice. Xaia was trusting that the research and development department had kept the bridge in working condition.
The nanite bridge had never been tested with the enormous weight of the bots but making the jump with command decks full of loose fighters wasn’t a great idea. They needed a bridge over the chasm, and the tech she was carrying was all that they had. It had never been tested. It had been theoretical during the first war, and now, it was getting its trial by fire. Xaia truly hoped that fire was not involved.
She glanced at the ball of metal in Ai’s hand and admired the craftsmanship of the first colonists. The idea was that the nanites would melt and meld the metal with the surrounding landscape, creating tendrils that would make a path to the other side of the chasm. Its built-in sensors were supposed to calculate what it needed to span the gap. Xaia had never seen it working, nor had anyone else in the last two hundred years. The design went back to the first settlers, but it was the world at war that had pulled it together.
Before she had come to grips with what was about to happen, she stopped. The chasm was right in front of them.
The other bots slowly pulled to a halt, and there was silence for a moment. Xaia opened a line to Duel. “Duel? You are a miner, right?”
Duel answered her with amused surprise. “I am. Thanks, you seem to be the only one who remembers it. What do you need?”
“I need to find the hardest stone at the edge of the chasm. It has to extend as far back as possible for stability.”
“So, this is about that ball you are carrying.”
“It is. It is a bridge, but I need the best material available.”
“Got it. Give me a moment.”
Xaia turned Ai, and they watched Kab look up and down the chasm. When he turned toward the far edge, she sighed in relief. It was a blessing to be working with competent people. Duel was checking the other side as well because a bridge needed two sides.
Kab started to move, and his foot made a mark on the ground.
Duel murmured. “This is the spot. It is the narrowest span with the strongest stone.”
“Excellent. Right. Stand aside. I have no idea what will happen next.” Xaia heard a sound and looked at the interior of her command deck. “Ah, right. I forgot about you. We are perfectly safe but tipping another bot into the chasm isn’t a great idea.”
One of the women said, “Are you sure we are safe?”
Xaia smiled. “Pretty sure.”
When Kab and the other four were standing back, she primed the bridge with a static charge from Ai’s palm, set it carefully in the correct direction, and stepped away while watching closely.
The ball began to glow faintly in the afternoon sun, and it writhed in place.
Xaia watched through her sensors and the internal screen that she had up for her passengers.
Tendrils of metal unwrapped from the exterior of the ball, and they pressed into the rock under them, hardening and flexing. More tendrils suddenly shot up and out, arching over the chasm in a twisting dance before plunging themselves into the far side of the span.
What followed was a twisting, pulsing contortion of metal that made Xaia uncomfortable to watch. When the woven column was thick enough, it spread and flattened out until it was wide enough for a bot to walk on with ease.
Xaia took a deep breath and waited. When a low, deep chime sounded, the creation of the bridge was done.
She didn’t think twice. She couldn’t. This was her responsibility, and Ai was going to be the first over the span. He wasn’t the lightest bot, but he was first in line.
With the sensors directing her path, she stepped onto the base of the bridge, and she felt it give, tremble, and then firm up under their weight. Apparently, the bridge was still alive.
The slow and calm steps took them over the bridge in under fifteen seconds, but for the poor passengers, it must have felt like fifteen hours. The smell of fear was thick in the command deck.
She turned back and faced the other side sending a message out. “One at a time, and don’t be in a hurry. The bridge won’t let you fall.”
Kab came over next. Then Cio, Len, Dif, and Myx. Myx strained the structure, but he made it over just fine.
Xaia looked at the bots, and she sent a quick request to Duel. A moment later, she was standing in a holographic room with the others, and the warriors with them were pale shadows in the background. They could hear but not participate.
“Well, I know you are a little fuzzy on this mission, so now is the time to tell you what we are doing.” Xaia sighed, and she straightened her shoulders.
Kiida looked encouraging, but she was privy to the secrets of all clans, not just her own. She might know what was about to happen.
Xaia cleared her throat. “Within the walls of the city are triggers to a weapon and defense mechanism that could save us all and prevent future incursions. If we can activate this weapon, Hera will be a free world, and we will no longer have to hide in the valley.
“Inside the walls are twenty-four points that will allow the weapon to rise and be effective. The issue lies in that only a pilot can trigger the points.”
Lido asked, “Why?”