Chapter 43

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A spyder droid crept along the grass of SKYE compound, deftly slipping between the blades of grass.  On its back, the spyder carried a small but deadly mine - capable of incinerating a foot clean off.  As a kat entered detection range, the spyder burrowed and powered down to avoid detection.  The kat's electronic eyes swept over the recently vacated space, and found nothing.

Your typical, unaugmented meatbag might be able to manage one of these spyders. IG-68 managed a network of twenty spyders simultaneously, each narrowcasting instructions through chinks in the kat's detection sweeps.

Thus far, IG-68 had managed to lay several spyder mines throughout the exterior of the compound, as well as several smoke mines that should prove helpful to Commander Kenobi's infiltrating fireteams.

During his training runs, IG-68 discovered a fatal flaw in his spyder droid plan.  The spyder's narrowcast network was too limited, given the ever present kat droids. To that end, IG-68 manufactured several narrowcast repeaters in the Halcyon's micro-fabs.  In one particularly frequented stretch by the kats, he even had his spyder droids run wiring to avoid narrowcast detection. Hard wiring!  Primitive, yet effective.

Placing the mines had proven easier than anticipated, but this was largely because whoever was running SKYE security systems now had sacrificed perimeter security for stronger security at strategic points.  The mastermind had placed kats strategically in key locations - on top of the mining droids and in and around the interceptors.  

Daniah could not land the Halcyon if she was being tailed by interceptors and bored by mining lasers. That's why originally he had planned to disable the mining droids with the spyders, by sneaking an explosive inside their main processor.  If they had to take out the mining droids using other means, they could, but it would be much more difficult.  The mining droids were built like tanks and could survive cave-ins.  Their thick armor would prove difficult even for Ax's railgun.   

While he worked on a solution to this intractable problem, IG-68 placed the explosives and smoke in a pattern around the mining droids.  Though he hated to admit defeat, the explosives and smoke might be needed to help the Commander and his fireteams take out the mining droids, if he could not.  

Ax lay next to him, letting out a long, digital yawn over the network.  She pouted like this sometimes, when she had an idea and IG-68 had yet to ask for her opinion.  As much as IG-68 preferred to challenge the capabilities of his own programming, this was one of those times when he had to admit his limitations.  "Ax, have you had any epiphanies?" asked IG-68.

At first, Ax refused to respond, and showed him instead an image of a monk prostrating himself in front of the great god Heeroku.  "I will not beg, Ax."  IG-68 protested.  Yet several thousand milliseconds went by, and Ax refused to budge.

"Fine, I cannot wait forever, Ax," IG-68 conceded.  "Oh, great Ax, fill us with your wisdom."  

With a trill of delight, Ax showed him a plan she had to devised to infiltrate one of the mining transports with the spyder droids, hot-wire the guidance systems, and then use the large transport as a sledgehammer to crush the interceptors and mining droids.  To accomplish this delicate act of electronic brain surgery, IG-68 would have to redeploy twenty of his spyder droids in an elaborate daisy chain through the hull of one of the large transport ships.  In addition to the risk of detection by the kats, they would have to disable parts of the ship's guidance systems while they re-routed some of the wiring.  Though most of the miners appeared to have redeployed to the perimeter, there was always the risk that a curious meatbag might ruin their day.

"Ax, that plan is lunacy!  It's reckless, unorthodox, and completely absurd," IG-68 said in mock protest, just long enough for Ax to begin to sulk.  "And I love it," he complimented. There was still the problem of saving the human meatbags attached to the RX-9s, but IG-68 reasoned that his spyders and the fireteams were up to the task. Besides, if it came down to it, this wouldn't be his first mission when he'd sacrificed a few meatbags for the greater good.

Ax crept over towards IG-68, and curled herself next to him.  At first IG-68 wasn't sure what she wanted. Then she prompted him with an image of a feline being stroked by its master.  "Good girl," IG-68 said as he stroked her.  "Good girl."

She had been a good girl.  Whereas he had devoted his processing to optimizing an already obsolete plan, Ax had combined their resources in an unorthodox way. Earlier, he had questioned her bloodthirsty instincts, afraid of what he had unleashed on the galaxy.  Yet this plan might single-handedly save the mission, and at the very least, it dramatically improved their odds.  Perhaps Ax was an artist of death, and perhaps, that was exactly what he needed.

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