Robot Wars!

The bastards were waiting for us.

Like trap door spiders waiting for a snack. I hate spiders.

We had to dock and unload fast, and try to figure out how to fight them.

Turns out there were only about two dozen or so troops, and we had more than enough folks to handle them.

I hopped onto a security terminal at the boarding gate, and started trying to find out what was up. Luckily it was a Western European made system, so figuring it out wasn’t too bad. Plus it was for Security, so it was made for idiots, sorta like the ones for fast food franchises. Just punch the pretty pictures, reading was only for bosses. The ones from Eastern Europe and mainland Asia are a pain. Those folks think weird. I entered “English” into the config options and started poking around. Literally.

Andy asked if I had any clue where the goonies were coming from, so I checked it out. The security settings weren’t very secure. No passwords or anything, all open. But that was to my advantage. I found the security tracker and looked for groups of people.

They were spread out into four groups right where Captain Monroe had reported. But there was only one ship other than the Lancer. It was at the docking port at the opposite pole, so not right near us which was a lucky break for the moment. It would give us time to plan, but also for them to get away if anyone was left on board.

I passed that on and started to work on the robot problem.

First, the security cameras showed me there were two of them, they were small, looked like mining robots, not security bots, so the goonies probably just decided to use them to beef up their forces. They looked local, and old, not shiny, new and UNWG funded. I remembered reading that these type were used to prospect small caverns and to build small ‘rooms’ for living quarters, and generally grind and pulverize rock in places that the larger main mining machines were too big for, or too expensive to use until it was known to be worthwhile.

They were also remote controlled. That much was clear. They were also tough enough to withstand being buried in rocks, rubble, dust. Mining is a tough environment, bullets probably would not work well against them. But they had operators and communications, and those could be vulnerable. Since the goonies were on the move, they were not controlling them from the regular control room, and a mobile team would not be doing it, you need a console or helmet, and the controls in your hands. That makes walking hard, assaulting an asteroid impossible, which left only the ship. On the other end of the stinking asteroid. Nuts.

OK, if you can not stop one end, stop the other. I would need a team, but I needed some information. I called the control room and they verified that yes, they used RF repeaters for communications throughout the asteroid, that they looked like 6 inch wide poker chips with a dozen antennas sticking out all around them. They worked off the power grid, but had a backup battery good for up to 24 hours in case of failure. I looked around and saw one by hatch and went over to examine it.

It was snapped into a mounting bracket mounted to the ceiling and popped right off, with an on/off switch on the bracket side. It was made to be easily replaced. So all we had to do was pop them off, and turn them off.

Believe it or not, this took all of maybe 5 minutes. Felt like 5 hours.

So I shouted out: “I need volunteers with more brains than muscles! If you know electronics, wiring, networks or even better, robots or anything like that, so much the better”.

Nine folks came over, one network guy named Subbu, two electricians, (a married couple of all things, isn’t spending all day and night with your spouse overkill?), and the rest geeks like me. Seven men, three woman. So we had ten. But no robot techs. That would have to do.

I explained what I wanted to do, the network guy confirmed the repeaters were low power and generally had a 150 foot range, but in rock it would be line of sight as well, since RF does not go through rock, as a rule. So they would be positioned at intersections, mostly on the ceiling, since wall mounts required two to cover blind spots.

So the plan was made. I marked out the corridors parallel to the one the bots were using to head towards the computer room, as well as the computer room itself.

I set them up in teams and explained that we would create an RF zone of darkness around them.

I sent two three “man” teams to each parallel corridor, two should run as fast as they could down the parallel corridors. One person on each team in the parallel corridors should stop halfway down and start disabling repeaters, working towards the computer room, the other should go all the way to the end and disable them as they worked their way back, away from the computer room, the third would start at the rear, near where we were, and work toward the other two as they worked back. Once they were done, we should meet up in one of the intersections we designated, with a crossing corridor that ran between all three of the ones we were clearing

The teams in the bot corridor were to start, one at the computer room, and one behind the bots, and disable the repeaters as they worked their way towards the bots. They were two man teams. One person to be a lookout, to keep an eye and ear open for the bots. They should try to avoid being seen if possible, since we did not want to tip our hand, plus we were not absolutely sure the bots had nothing that could be used as a weapon.

The plan was to have the bots walk into RF darkness as they got closer to the computers, and eventually cut off all signals as we shut down the repeaters. Eventually, they should just shut down as they lost signal.

Once everyone understood the plan, we took off, I was one of the two disabling the bots corridor from the computer room back, that way I could check out the room briefly.

Just a locked door, not airtight since computers did not need air, and just strong enough to keep a human from breaking in, but not a mining bot. It would probably take them all of five minutes to get in.

We got busy. Since my partner was short, I did the disabling since I was tall enough to reach the low ceiling, she acted as lookout. We got about four repeaters in, when she heard them. They were far from quiet, so we kept going and got three more repeaters before we got too close. So we had blacked out the RF signal for about 500 feet from the computer room, since the repeaters were not that far apart.

We backtracked and ducked into the next side corridor and waited. The bots came grinding down the corridor. They certainly were not built for speed. They were traveling at about half walking speed. They each had two sets of tracks under a platform, like little bulldozers, and a low, triangular, “turret”, flat on the front and rear, with ugly looking apparatus on an armature sticking out of one face of the turret, but nothing that looked like it could be a projectile weapon. The turret looked like it could slide back and forth from the front to the back of the track platform, as well as turn. So it might be able to flail around if we approached it. There was a video camera on the front of each, but whoever was operating them didn’t bother to check the side corridors. Probably someone not used to this dragged into doing it by his superiors. I sent my partner back up a side corridor to get the others, and kept watching the bots. I saw service panels on the back of the turrets, so there was probably a way to disable them inside. If they got too close to the computer room, we could get up behind them, open the access doors and rip out whatever we could, hoping whoever was operating them could not react in time. But I had faith in the plan, they should stop any minute now.

And they did. Just before the next intersection they stopped. But why. That was the question. Was the RF cut off, or were they doing something else. I waited for the others.

They showed up about two minutes later and confirmed that they disabled all the repeaters they could find.

OK, so now the test. Subbu, (the network tech), and I went up quietly to the back of the bots. We examined the first one. The panel on the back was marked “Service”, and there was also an on/off toggle under a protective metal cover. Machines, gotta love ‘em. They all have off switches.

We flipped the switch on the first one we got to and then went for the next one, keeping an eye on the first one, but it did not move. The second one turned off, we opened the panels and checked it out. There was a main terminal for recharging, as well as a menu screen allowing access to various systems, like the RF transmitter. We shut everything off on each, as well as a complete shutdown, since the off switch seemed not to power the computer. Since the things heavy, probably close to half a ton even if they were fairly small, that was enough mass to make them difficult to move, but we managed to secure them by hanging them upside down from the ceiling with loops of cable we found nearby, by looping the cable around the platform where the treads and the armature on the turrets could not get to it. Even if they reactivated somehow, they would be unusable. We did not want to destroy them, they could be useful.

I did not want to reactivate any repeaters until we knew what was going on. I sent two of the folks out to report what had happened and later found out everyone was freaking out that so much of the RF network had gone black.

But we did it. We restored the RF network later after the station was secure, but last I heard, the bots were still hanging there.

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
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Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.