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\title{{\Huge\sc$\overline{\rm The\, Space\, Wars}$}\\
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\LARGE\bf\sf \underline{Destiny of the Droids}}
\author{William A. Stein}

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\chapter*{Preface}
I wrote the original version of this book when I was ten years old.  I
am presently rewriting and expanding on the original version.

If you like this book, let me know ({\tt [email protected]}).  If
not, stop reading, and don't bother with criticism; I'm writing this
because it makes me feel good, in much the same way that, e.g., going
on a brisk walk does.  I'm not seeking criticism at this point,
because I'm not interested in becoming a professional fiction author,
as I already have a professional career that I love.

{\em A note on intellectual property:} The author, William A.\ Stein,
of this work gives anyone the right to read and distribute this book
in any form they choose so long as the writing is attributed to
William Stein and this preface remains attached.  In particular, no
monetary compensation is requested.  Moreover, anyone can take the
text and extend it, if for some weird reason they want to, again under
the condition that this preface remain attached.  However, the
extended text must also be made freely available to everyone.

\chapter{Droid Armies}
Crisp cold air sweeps across a gray sky.  A sturdy black building sits
in the middle of a huge red and rocky area on a freezing barren
planet.  Numerous other identical menacing buildings are stationed
across this dreadful landscape.  Each contains something that only the
recently appointed president, Columbo, and a few of his trusted
advisers knows about.

\threestars

Bill Stein recently celebrated his 25th birthday.  He is about five feet
ten inches tall, has black hair, and a medium build.  At the moment, he
is standing on a barren planet, near a dark precipice.  He thinks, then
looks at his watch, which, for a very brief moment, reads ``2185,
August 16, 1:25, 16 and 28/1000000 seconds.''  Upon seeing the time,
he pulls a gadget from his pocket and speaks into it.  ``This is Captain
Bill Stein on Sector 4.  Bring me back from this scout mission.  It's getting
cold out here.''  In fact, the cold can't touch him in his heated
space suit.

Far away, floating in space, the beaming office replies: ``OK.  I'll
beam you aboard the ship.''  The beaming officer was quite unusual and
harbored a deeply veiled past.  In less than a second, Bill
materializes aboard the ship.  He removes his protective suit, exits
the beaming room, and enters a hallway where he is met by a 6 foot 2
inch tall man with fluffy brown hair and sharp features.  Together
they step into an elevating room and are pulled through an antigravity
tube.  As their journey ends and the tube opens, Thom steps onto the
bridge.

Thom is Bill's best friend, and like Bill he is 25 years old.  
He stands just over six feet tall in front of his monitoring
and communications array and in a few moments yells ``Bill, look at
the scanning display!''

``What exactly do you see?'' Bill inquires.

``A blip,'' Thom excitedly answers.  This is Thom's 6th mission. 

``There's something out there and I want to know what it is and where
it is going.  What is its present course?'' Bill asks carefully.

``It's on a direct course to intercept us.  I may be able to bring up
a visual of the blip using our ship's telescopes'', Thom suggests.

``Try,'' Bill agrees.  Several barely-visible specs appear in the
middle of a large black viewscreen.  They wiggle a little, indicating
rapid movement.  ``Thom, try to zoom in further and enhance.'' 

The view on the screen barely changes, as Thom studies his instruments.
``Bill, those are sophisticated space ships, and they do not look friendly.  
Their weapons are fully charged.''  Thom fixes a concerned eye on 
Bill, ``I suggest we arm our lasers as a safety precaution.''  The
mood on the bridge becomes tense.  Officers to the left and right
of Bill try to appear to relax as they study their consoles while
nervously glancing at the viewscreen.

``I agree.''  Bill pauses, then turns to an officer nearer the view
screen and adds, ``Dennis, arm our weapons array.''  Dennis is 24
years old and 5 feet 9 inches tall.  If anyone really knows Bill, it
is Dennis.  Though Bill is captain of the ship, and Dennis is
devastating in combat situations, without Dennis's financial wizardry,
the ship would never have been allowed just the right crew.

``Laser's armed'', Dennis replies as his hands dance in the air amongst
a forbiddingly colored hologram that hovers in front of his chair.

A flash of light appears on the viewscreen.  A single thought leaves
each officer's mind as rapidly as it arrives: Will I be incinerated in a
moment?  The bridge shakes enough to knock Bill and Thom to their
knees as a bolt of energy cuts into the ship's launch pad!

``Fire lasers!'' Bill yells.  The air vibrates slightly as Dennis 
releases laser cannon fire at ten approaching ships.  The viewscreen
shows three fighter ships explode, as the shields on the other seven
re-modulate in order to deflect Bill's lasers.

``I suggest I try to establish communication with them'', suggests Thom.

``Go ahead and try'', approves Bill.  Thom tries, but has no luck.  The
enemy ignores all hails.  Frustrated and worried as the remaining
seven ships speed closer, Bill orders ``Ready the ship to jump to
light speed.''   

``All right'' responds the lead cruise controller, a clever blonde
haired young man named Chris, who sits to Bill's left.  The controller
and three nearby officers move their hands carefully above a smooth
panel admists rotating holographic images.  The ship hums and vibrates
as the hyperdrive engines are activated.  Just as the ship begins to
jump to light speed, enemy laser fire storms all around damaging the
hyperdrive.  ``Captain, we're not going to be able to jump to light
speed for a while.  I will try to assess the damage caused by those
last blasts.''

``How long do you think it will take?'' Bill demands.

``It will probably take a few hours,'' replies the cruise controller
slowly, keenly aware that he might not live more than a few more
minutes.

``We'll just have to fight them off'' shouts Bill; ``keep firing
lasers Dennis, Thom, and Chris!''  He mentions manuever ``alpha
bravo'' to the cruise controller.

As the battle rages on, it rapidly becomes clear that Dennis is the
best shooter.  A total of six enemy ships fall by his hand.  After a
while, it seems that all of the enemy ships are gone, as the ship
speeds seemingly unpursued across the deeply empty reaches of space.

Bill congrulates his crew: ``Great shooting Dennis!''  ``Excellent
work repairing our light-speed hyperdrive, Chris.''  Then Bill thinks
fleetingly about his wife Tasha, who was many light years away, who
he has not seen in several months.

A few tense hours pass, in which the crew carefully monitors for
attack craft, and does their best to hide the weakened ship behind
floating debri.  Finally, Chris announces ``The hyperdrive should
now be fully operational.''

``Great!'' replies Bill, and then adds solemly, ``Let's go home.''

``Just give the order, Bill'', Chris says excitedly.

``It's given.''  As the ship enters an open expanse of space, it hums
and vibrates, and the hyperdrive safely jumps the ship to near light
speed.  For a moment every living thing on the ship is mildly
disoriented, and the next moment the only change is that the view out
the window is bizarrely distorted.  Several hours pass, and then Chris
slows the ship down, as most of the crew's home world appears, as a
dot, on the viewscreen.

``It is fabulous to see Earth again,'' comments Thom, ``When we were
attacked we fought well; I don't think we can easily be captured.''

The ship rapidly approaches Earth, shooting through space at sublight
speeds that defy comprehension.  As the planet grows to encompass most
of the viewscreen, Bill thinks for a moment about his parents below,
and wishes that his wife Tasha were also below instead of off on a
research mission at Dinesta.  As the ship breaks through the
automosphere and glides towards Earth, a landing area appears,
imprisoned on three sides by water.  Thom notices that the fourth side
is populated with an organized large number of people and asks, ``What
is going on down there?''

``I don't have the slightest idea'', Bill answers.  ``Chris, slow our
landing.  Thom, run a scan on the people who appeared armed with laser
cannons.''

Moments later, Thom yells in surprise: ``Those 'guys' are droids!''

``They must be somehow connected with the droids that I discovered in
the sheds on that planet's surface,'' realizes Bill.

The ship jerks, knocking Bill and Thom temporarily off balance.  
``What just caught us?'' asks Dennis.  

``Some kind of tractor beam'', responds Thom.

Before Bill can say ``ready lasers'', the ship is locked onto the
landing pad, and the weapons array is covered by special mirrors, that
are usually placed there to prevent accidents, but in this case make
the ships weapons all but useless. 

``Let's try to break free'', Bill cries.  Chris tries, but the ship
is held fast.   

``Let's try to shoot the droids'', suggests Dennis. 

``No -- with the safety deflectors over our lasers, we'll only harm
ourselves,'' warns Bill.   

Red lights flash as the ships goes into battle alert.  Droids break
through an entrance and begin boarding the huge ship.  Some are ripped
apart by laser fire from crew members, but soon the droids produce
shields which effectively protect them.  

Feeling betrayed by the security of their home world, eventually,
Bill, Thom, Dennis, and Chris all find themselves being forceably
escorted off their ship.  The rest of the crew is detained onboard by
ever patient and watchful droids.  

``Why are you here?'' inquires Bill as he and the others are moved
very quickly away from the ship in a carefully sealed rectangular
black vehicle.  The droids take no notice.  The vehicle connects
solidly with a featureless grey building, and unloads its human cargo.
The human-looking expressionless droids lock our space travelers up in
a medium size featureless cell.  The cell walls are smooth and grey,
there is a bench against a wall, and a small glowing force-field door,
through which nothing can be seen.

``Thom, just moments ago you said you didn't think we could be beaten
or even captured'', says Dennis in frustration.   

Thom stoically replies, ``we are not dead yet.''

``We are in a big mess,'' Chris notes. ``We have to escape and get help
from one of the allied planets.''

``We had better do so,'' agrees Bill, as a droid approached the
force-field door of their cell.

``Be silent'', says the guard in a monotone voice from behind the
door.  The sound of the guard's footsteps suggest that he walks
several yards directly away from the door.

``I have a great idea!'' announces Bill very quitely.  

``What is it?'' whispers Tom.

``Well, we could probably make it past several of the guards...'', he
lowers his voice even more, ``if we could re-program one of the other
droids.  We'll make a lot of noise to draw the guard's attention.  It
will come in here to shut us up, and then Dennis will take him out.
Dennis, I trust you were able to smuggle off of our ship something
that could be used as a weapon?''

``Of course.'' Dennis confirms, with a twinkle in his eye as he
taps an almost imperceptible bulge in the corner of his pantleg.

At Bill's signal, Chris, Thom, and Dennis begin talking, then
yelling loudly, and even appear to be fighting each other at one
point.  The guard droid, who had warned them before, appears stoically
at the door and says ``Be silent.''  A torrent of loud curses echo
back from the small prison.  The guard, devoid of fear, follows its
programming; it shuts down the force door.  It enters the room, then the
force door is re-activated by another guard.  

Dennis springs from behind at the guard, brandishing nothing but a
thin diamond wrench, and makes a quick incision from behind.  The
guard stops in midstep and falls to the ground.  Everyone is silent;
they must work quickly.

Thom whispers, ``Assuming Dennis hasn't damaged this droid too much,
I'll try to re-program it so that it will attack the other droids when
they least expect it.  It's too bad we don't have more time to study
these droids, so we could perhaps learn their purpose.''  Because the
droid looks so human, it is disconcerting to see Thom open various
panels and beginning hacking through, then reprogramming the mind of
the droid, using a holographic interface that he is able to produce.

``Hurry up'' Bill whispers in a concerned voice, ``I hear footsteps.
The other droids will soon become suspicious.''

The force door opens, revealing two droids, just as Thom's droid
stands tall and announces in a convincing monotone, spoken in the
droid's own encrypted language, that the prisoners are under control,
because he has just administered a sedative to each of them.  Thom
feigns to look tired, and Bill, Dennis, and Chris follow suit.  As the
droids turn and begin to leave, Thom's guard droid fires poinpoint red
lasers from each thumb, which land squarely in the backs of each of
the other two droids.  They stop moving, then fall to the ground.

``Amazing work'' congrulates Bill.  The four jump through the force
door and into a hallway of Building 7, a building they all got to know
well during their early years of training.  ``We're near what used to
be a weapons storage room; let's check to see if it still is.''  Bill
leads the way, followed by Chris, Dennis, and Thom and his droid.

They quickly find the storage room, while appearing to avoid
detection.  The storage room is locked by a black force shield.
Because he is on the outside of the force shield, Thom has little
difficulty breaking through it using a ``backdoor'' that he installed
while in training here a few years ago.  The force shield dissipates,
revealing stocks of weapons lined up against the walls and a
suspicious and heavily armed droid in the center of the room, who
immediately begins to fire as our four fighters jump away from the
door.  Last blasts darken and rip apart the side of the hallway
opposite the door.

``Surrender or die'' the attacking droid threatens as he emerges from
the weapons room.  Just as our fighters are about to run, Thom's droid
makes short order of the attacker with a quick small red laser blast
from his right thumb.  Moments later, our fighters are armed to the teeth.
They charge down a corridor, with hopes of amassing enough power
to retake their ship and escape.

``Watch out behind you, Bill! Duck and fire!'' screams Thom.  A laser
blast barely misses Bill, resulting in a mild burn on his arm, as he
fires back hitting nothing.  Shots from Thom hit the attacking droid,
causing it to explode.   

Eventually, a systematics search leads the crew to the droid's command
and control center, which is located in a small tower mounted on the
top of Building 7.  With some difficulty, they manage to take the
tower.  Though Thom doesn't understand the encrypted wireless protocol
used by the droids to communicate, he can send messages using it via
his loyal droid, who has managed to escape harm so far.  Thom sends
out a message using the droid's encrypted wireless frequency telling
all droids that they ``must go to landing strip 14 immediately!''
Even his own droid finds itself compelled to obey.

As Thom, Dennis, Chris, and Bill reboard their ship, they find their
crew mostly unharmed and in the process of mounting a rescue effort,
and have successfully disabled the ship landing constraints.  When
they reach the bridge, Chris says, ``The controls appear to be intact.
I think I can get us out of here. Just give the order, Bill.''

``It's given,'' says Bill, and the ship shoots quickly into the sky,
as their view of the base disappears behind clouds, and the whole
planet appears to them as little more than a dot.  As some
droid-controlled ships begin to fire on them, they engage their
hyperdrive and are gone.

``That was very close,'' comments Thom.  ``Let's drop out of
hyperwarp, then approach the nearest allied planet and explain to them
what has happened to Earth.''

``That's just what I had in mind,'' agrees Bill.  Chris slows the
ship down, as Thom determines their exact location in the astromap
database.  

After a few tense minutes, Thom announces ``The closest planet is
Drizzt.  Unfortunately Bill, my scans suggest that Drizzt is crawling
with droids, just like Earth was.''

Just then a squadron of small agile attack ships is detected by their
sensors.  The approaching ships are barely visible by the light of
Drizzt's sun.  They are mostly black with sharp streaks of silver
running from their front to back. Each ship carries several huge red
laser canons mounted on top and bottom.  These ships have one purpose,
to destroy.

Dennis yells, ``They're firing at us!!  Fortunately our shields are
fully charged, and have held so far.''  

``Return fire!'' Bill commands.

Two attacking ships explode moments after Dennis targets the attack
ships and causes his weapons to release a few blasts.

``What happened to the lights? Ouch!'' yells members of the crew.  The
remaining attack ships had simultaneously released a huge torrent of
lasers and struck a direct hit on the ship's primary power reactor.

Thom says in frustration, ``Our weapons likely won't be operational
for the next hour.''

``No! I won't give up so easily,'' responds Bill, ``Dennis, switch to
secondary power.  Are any of our weapons now at least partially
operational?''

``We still have two of our laser cannons'', replies Dennis, as he
prepares to fire one of them.  ``Bill, you may want to fire the other
cannon.''

A small explosion rocks the ship.  ``Damn!'', yells Dennis, ``I had an
enemy ship targeted and just as I fired my cannon failed!''  

``Use mine'', Bill replies.  The lights re-appear, but are dim. ``Thom
and Chris, how close are we to having enough power to engage our
hyperdrive?''

``Probably a few more minutes'', responds Chris as he puzzles over a
holographic image that floats before him.   

As three enemy ships close in for a final assault, the ship activates
its hyperdrive, and, as far as the three ships are concerned, is gone.
The droids who control the remaining attack ships fly back to planet
Drizzt.

\chapter{Sundance Galaxy}
Now that we survived the fast-paced present-tense first chapter, the
author has elected to switch to the past tense.

After the crew got some rest on board, and attended to their wounds,
they partially repaired the ship.  They then slowed from hyperspeed as
they entered the Sundance galaxy.  

Several of the ship's top officers gathered together in the strategy
room,  a cool expansive high-ceiling room constructed in the
ancient European style, with genuine stone floors and walls, and
detailed woodwork decorating the walls.  The holographic computer
terminals, which looked out of place mounted on the walls, gave off a
noticeable glow in the dim light.

When Dennis, Thom, Chris, and a few other officers had arrived, Bill
spoke up: ``We have lost all contact with the people or military
forces of Earth.  We don't know what happened to our people, if they
are alive, or if they are being held captive.  The worlds neighboring
Earth appear to have met a similar fate.  One thing is for
certain---we must retake the Earth!''

``We could try to convince some of the powers based at the planets in
Sundance to help us,'' Dennis suggested.  ``It would be in their
interest, because their worlds might be attacked by the droids next.''

Thom added, ``I made some preliminary scans, which suggest that perhaps 
the droids have not yet infiltrated Sundance.''

``Repairs on our ship are proceeding well,'' noted Chris. 

Bill turned to the chief engineer, a short and clever man, and said
``Good work on the repairs, Nathaniel.'' He paused, then said
``Dennis, Thom, and Chris, meet me on the bridge.'' The meeting ended.

``Thom, have you been able to establish communications with any
of the leaders of nearby planets?'' inquired Bill.

Thom responded affirmatively: ``Davitt, leader of an influential
nearby planet named Orbis, has agreed to speak with us in one hour.  In the
past, Orbisians have been sympathetic to human problems; moreover,
they have a historic distaste for droids.''  The hour passed
uneventfully as repairs on the ship continued, and the crew did its
best to review the place of Planet Orbis in recent Sundance Galaxy
history.  Finally, Davitt appeared on the viewscreen.  The ship and
Davitt communicated via a high-bandwidth encrypted link, which kept
Davitt's location quite vague.   

What they saw on the screen did not look anything like a human.
Daviss was quite a bit larger than a human, and wore a black and
mirrored suit that allowed him to hover gently above the rough floor.
His head hid behind a helmet that betrayed nothing of his facial
expression while keeping him extremely comfortable in almost any
atmosphere.  Davitt began, his words automatically being translated to
Earthlish, ``My secretary has informed me that an army of droids have
attacked Earth.  This is consistent with reports we've received from our
intelligence officers.''

``Orbis could be next,'' responded Bill, very much to the point.

``A droid army once attacked us, and almost managed to imprison and
slaughter much of our population.  Fortunately, most of the planets of
Sundance were united, and we were strong enough to repulse them.  They
must have retreated towards the Milky Way.  At the time, we were not
strong enough to follow them and destroy them completely.''  He paused
for a moment, ``I have to wear this suit at all times because I was
greviously injured when a spy droid attempted to assassinate me.
These machines are terrible; they're a virus.''

This recent-history lesson from Davitt served to chill Bill's crew, as
their thoughts turned once again towards their families and questionable
futures.

``I will send forces to rendevous with you,'' said Davitt to Bill, then
he terminated the communication.  Davitt, the absolute leader of Orbis,
contacted his favorite and most trusted general, ``Jerrisons, the time
has come for us to launch a counterstrike against the droid armies.  I
have strong evidence that the droids have taken Earth; if so, they once
again pose a supreme threat to us.  We must strike now.  Lead several
rapid-action squadrons of our best fighters and rendevous with the
Earth ship that you've no doubt detected by now.''

After a few hours of preparation, four elite squadrons take flight,
breaking through Orbis's gravitational pull, and begin flying towards
the Earth ship.  Half way into their journey, and without warning, the
two lead ships are attacked!!  ``Watch out fighter K713, there is an
unidentified fighter approaching you from behind!'', warns Masas, one
of the fighter pilots, ``I don't detect any life signs on board, so
maybe it's a droid scout ship.  Permission to destroy it?''

``Granted'', replies the occupant of K713, as he opens fire.
Div-div-div-div-div-boooom!!! yell the lasers of K713, as the
attacking ship is fragmented into millions of pieces.  ``Watch out
Masas!'' yells the occupant of K713.  But he is too late.  Masas's
ship is ripped apart under the assault of scorching merciless laser
blasts, which issue from a second droid scout ship.  The second ship
then fires on K713, which spins and jerks as a laser blast glances off
one of its stabilizer arrays.  ``I've been hit,'' shouts the occupant
of K713, as he sends out a distress signal.   The droid closes in
for termination.
$$*\hspace{1in}*\hspace{1in}*$$


Back on the ship, Bill was concerned.  ``I wonder why it is taking
Davitt's forces so long to reach us?''

``I just detected a distress signal!'' replied Thom, ``It appears
to be coming from one of Davitt's ships.''

``There's been recent laser fire,'' chimes in Dennis, ``it looks
like one of two point fighters have been destroyed, and the other,
K713, is disabled.  I recommend we beam the pilot of K713 out immediately.''

``Do it!'', shouted Bill; the ordered propogated to the mysterious
beaming officer, and, as a droid laser blast ripped apart K713, the
pilot materialized in the beaming room, pleasantly surprised to be
alive.

``Dennis, try to destroy the droid fighter, before it attacks any more
of Davitt's forces,'' commanded Bill.

``Yes, sir.'' Dennis launched an expensive unmanned craft, which,
within ten minutes, efficiently sought and destroyed the loan
droid scout in a kamakaze attack that resulted in its own destruction.

Within 20 minutes, Davitt's four squadrons came into view, illuminated
by the distant warm glow of Sundance's trio of suns.  The huge
recently-saved occupant of K713 stepped slowly onto the bridge.  ``I
am Jerrisons.  I owe you my life.''

``It is honor to meet you,'' shouted Bill.  Jerrisons's imposing
stature and thick black battle armor made it difficult to avoid
speaking loudly to him.  ``Let's discuss our plans to regain Earth.''
The two stepped off the bridge, followed by Thom and Dennis, and began
to discuss the possibility of using the ship's hyperfield to transfer
the Orbis fighter squadrons near Earth.  The Orbis military had not
successfully deployed hyperdrives, because they chose to keep focused
on their home world and neighboring planets, instead of scattering
their attention throughout the Universe.  Thus they were able to
temporarily stem off the droid invaders but were not able to arrest
their retreat.  Earth, on the other hand, had the exact opposite
focus, and had quickly fallen to the droids, as ship's such as Bill's
would sadly discover as they returned home from fantastic voyages and
were imprisoned by the droids.

$$*\hspace{1in}*\hspace{1in}*$$

``Position your fighters at the following coordinates ...''
commanded Colum, the supreme droid master whose thin stature towered
over 9 feet high.  He was the creator of the droid armies.  He looked
somewhat human, despite his height, and that his smooth hard skin was
perfectly black.

``Yes master,'' answered the droid in an encrypted transmission that
is best described as an obedient monotone by those who frequently
listen to such transmissions.  Colum, who was born several hundred
years ago in a distant ancient world, wanted to be present at this
supreme moment of victory.  Finally, Earth and any planet near enough
to matter, would be completely under the control of the
self-replicating droid army that he had built over a hundred years ago
to help him liberate a new place for his people.  All that remained
was to take care of the last of Earth's remaining annoying Space
Voyagers, the Stein Ship.  Being here was one of the greatest risks
Colum had ever taken, but he needed to be certain of success.  

Every so often a stroke of cosmicly bad luck visits a very powerful
being.  It would soon visit Colum.

Colum knew that Bill's ship must pass near here in order to return to
Earth, because this was the only safe stargate into the Milky Way.
(Bill's ship could activate its hyperdrive anywhere, but had to exit
at a stargate.)  Colum knew that Bill must come soon, as he had received
a signal from two of his droid scouts ship.  I will finally have them,
Colum thought to himself as he rubbed his perfectly black
four-fingered hands together.

Bus, Colum's officer and friend for hundreds of years, sent a signal:
``Colum, there's an asteroid storm heading straight for you!!!!''

``What??'' Colum's ship was impacted repeatedly by a flurry of huge
and pebble-sized ancient rocks which, billions of years ago, had started
on just the trajectory that would eventually lead to a surprise attack
on Colum's ship.  

Colum's ship was ripped apart as Colum let loose a last angry scream of
supreme anger and frustration.

Bus was unharmed, and realized this was his chance to take command of
the droid armies, which is something he had longed to do for many many
years.  Bus brought his eight finger tips together and smiled.  ``What
amazing luck.''  There was just this small matter of the renegade
human ship to take care of.

Bus opened a communication channel to the nearby droids, who had
stopped forming their trap when Colum's ship was destroyed: ``Colum
was terminated by an asteroid storm.  Droid tactical squads, resume
moving into ambush formation.''

``Yes, yes, yes, ...'', responded the countless droid fighters, in
a lifeless monotone. 

Bus extended his communication to all droids; his messages would
quickly propogate throughout the galaxy: ``Droids, in the last moment
before Colum terminated, he made me supreme leader of the droid
armies.''  The droids believed him, though what he said was a big fat
lusty lie.

\threestars

``We should exit the stargate very soon'', announced Chris, ``the
hyperdrive is functioning perfectly, and we can already begin to see
outside of the stargate.''

Bill turned to Thom, ``Jerrisons has told me some of what he knows
about how the droid army operates.  Using only a skeletal force, they
enter a galaxy and conquer a distant sparsely populated planet or
moon, then spend a few years creating a droid army manufacturing
facility that turns the raw resources of their base into droid
fighters.  They then have a constant supply of reinforcements.  The Orbisians
were lucky to detect this operation in Sundance Galaxy and head it off
before it was too late.''

Thom responed, ``We however, did not.  The droids must have established
such a base somewhere in our galaxy.  I'll immediately set a crew to search
for where the droids have hidden their operations base.  Perhaps they have
become lazy in hiding it, because they seem to have all but taken complete
control of our galaxy.''  

As the star gate drew closer, Bill said, ``Jerrisons, make sure your
squadrons are ready for battle.  It's likely that we will encounter
hostiles near the stargate.  All fighter squadron, red alert!''  On
the viewscreen Bill could see a huge field of slowly-moving asteroids
on the other side of the stargate, along with a mysterious shiny
silver planet called Josh.  Though many scout ships and probes had
landed on the planet, it was believed that none had ever returned nor
even sent back data.

The ship shook and vibrated firmly as Chris gently guided it out of
hyperspeed and through the stargate.  Bill's forces entered the Milky
Way.

Bus sent an encrypted signal to his forces, ``Droids, wait until the
humans are half way through the asteroid belt before attacking.  They
will fall into our red hot hands!''  

``We are ready,'' the droids replied obediently.

\chapter{Tai Stargate}
``Thom, what have you found?'' asked Bill, ``Have our scans picked up
any droid ships?''

``Oh yes,'' responded Thom in a deep voice.  ``They're everywhere,
though I can't get a visual on any of them.  They are hiding in the
asteroid field.''

Bill replied, ``So, they mean to ambush us.  I wonder if they expected us
to return with several squadrons of rapid-action Orbis fighters?''

From the bridge of Bill's ship, Jerrisons was in constant
communication with his squadrons, who had by now separated from the
ship and were carefully flying in tight formation very nearby.  Dennis
had errected a powerful force shield near the ship, which protected
both it and Jerrisons's fighters, but which would reflect any weapons
Dennis fired back.  They were relatively safe from laser fire as long
as the shield held out; unfortunately, the effect on their weapons was
like the effect of lodging a piece of lead in the chamber of a gun.

Bill tried to break the tension as he inquired, ``Thom, now that we
are a back in the Milky Way, has your team had any luck searching for
a droid manufacturing station.''

``Let me check.''  There was a pause.  ``Maybe'', responded Thom,
``there's a planet called Roxy near the Tai Stargate.  My team's
searches of Galaxynet suggests Roxy is the most likely home of a droid
manufacture point.  I think Chris will agree that we could re-enter
the stargate and make a jump to Tai.''

``Let's wait,'' responded Bill.  ``Dennis, raise shields around both
us and Jerrisons's forces. Thom, any sign of the exact location of our
'welcome party'?''

Bus sent the signal: ``Attack!!''   Laser bolts exploded from several
directions.

``Our shields are holding,'' reported Dennis.  

``I could hyperwarp us towards Tai Stargate in only a few
minutes,'' added Chris.

``Droid ship 6K7, kamakazi into the Stein Ship,'' commanded Bus, as
he began to test his enemy's defenses.

``Yes,'' replied the droid occupant of 6K7 obediently as his ship
dived towards Bill's ship.  Bus suspected correctly that Bill's ship's
shields would deflect energy bolts, but not a fighter ship.
Expendible pilots and a self-generating army provided a formidible
advantage against even the most cunning foe.

One of Jerrisons's fighters, the 7th Falcon, broke from formation, and
shot out from the shield, intercepted 6K7, and destroyed it, then took
heavy fire as he retreated.  The integrity of 7th Falcon began to fail,
as it re-entered Bill's shields.  The pilot ejected, then was beamed
aboard Bill's ship, just before the 7th Falcon imploded.  

``Bill, I think the droid leader's is part of this ambush,'' shouted
Thom.  ``And, I bet I've located it.  What a brilliant stroke of luck.
''

Bill responded, ``Or a brilliant trap?  I think not.  Chris maneuver
our ship towards the coordinates Thom gives you.  Dennis, prepare to
lower the shields and launch our photon disintegrators.''

The mood on the ship was tense.  Combat always made Bill uneasy.  His
crew's primary mission was exploration, not combat.  They would much
rather understand the universe than save it.  

``Fire!'' yelled Bill, as Dennis unleashed a torrent of photon
disintegrators at a nearby asteroid.  As the asteroid turned to dust,
Bill's crew saw a terrifying black and flourescent orange ship appear
before them.  It dwarfed Jerrisons's rapid fighter ships, but was in
turn dwarfed by the Stein Ship.  Then it vanished, as the Stein
Ship raised its shields.

Dennis summarized the situation, ``Bill, that ship's activated some
sort of alien cloaking device.  Even if we lower our shields, I
probably won't be able to lock any of our weapons onto it.  If
Jerrisons's fighters start shooting wildly for it, they'll be picked
off by the other droids.'' Dennis stood up from his chair to say
something, but then changed his mind.   

``Dennis, what is it?'' inquired Thom, concerned. 

``Oh, nothing,'' answered Dennis, as if he had just awoken from a deep
sleep. Dennis escaped Thom's scrutiny as he began manipulating the
rainbow of holograms that danced before him.

Chris interrupted, ``Several droid ships are launching kamikazi
attacks on us.''

``Jerrison, reattach your fighters to our ship.  Chris, get us out of
here!  Let's go to Tai Stargate as soon as possible.''  

The droid ships caused some damage as Chris piloted the ship towards
the stargate.  Two of Jerrisons's fighters and their pilots were destroyed
defending the strategic retreat.  ``I'm ready to activate hyperdrive,
Bill,'' said Chris, ``just give that sweet order.''

``It's has just been given,'' said Bill as the ship jerked then
fled through the stargate. 

Bus's ship frustratedly decloaked. ``That was good thinking,'' praised
one of the best-constructed droids.  This droid believed it also could
think.

``It was not good enough, I'm afraid,'' responded Bus in what might be
interpreted as a deep alien voice.  ``I should have never considered
your suggestions during the battle.  Perhaps droids can't be
programmed to really {\em want} victory.'' 

``What is the problem?'' inquired the droid.  

``These remaining humans are probably going to destroy our droid
manufacturing sheds.  If you would have monitored their Galaxynet
traffic you wouldn't have to ask.  I only hope we can stop them.  It
is a shame that Columbo's ship, which was destroyed, was equipped with
hyperdrive technology, but ours is not.''

\threestars

Chris broke the silence on board the bridge, ``We will arrive at Tai
Stargate very soon.''  The ship slowed as it approached the stargate
exit.  Every eye on the bridge was fixed on the viewscreen as the ship
exited the stargate and Roxy came into view.  They saw a redish planet
appear on the view screen.  Chris didn't maneuver the ship too close,
in hopes that they cold avoid being detected.  Roxy was not pretty;
she had a deadly atmosphere and her surface was colder than the
coldest glacier capped polar regions of Earth.  

Bill wasted no time, ``This planet has ideal resources for a droid
manufacture plant, and our sensors seem to have found one.  Thom,
Dennis, and I will beam down and try to sabotage the manufacturing
facility.''  Bill turned and said, ``Dennis and Thom, meet me in the
transporter room after you put your life-support suits on.''

Bill left the bridge, and passed Nathaniel on the way, ``Nathaniel,
you're going down to Roxy with us.''  Bill and Nathaniel both entered
the antigravity tube, dawn life-support suits and arrive at the
transporter room.  ``Is everybody's suit operational?'' asks Bill, who
added, ``Enter the life-support test chamber.''  Thom, Dennis,
Nathaniel, and Bill entered a special room that simulated conditions
on the planet.  It was imperative that if one of their sophisticated
bulky suits was not defective or not configured properly that the
mistake be discovered on the ship rather than off.  Everbody's suits
checked out, and each person stepped, somewhat clumsily, to the
transporter pads.

Thom said, ``We should now exchange maximally secure public encryption
keys so that we will be able to communicate during the mission with
minimal chance of being understood.''  He then clumsily turned his
helmet enclosed head towards the beaming officer and asked, ``Are you
ready to beam us down to the planet's surface?''

``I'll be ready soon,'' replied the beaming officer as he manipulated
the multi-colored holograms that floated above his control panel, ``I
don't want to beam any of you into something solid, you know.''

Bill, Thom, Dennis, and Nathaniel prepared themselves mentally for
their critical mission as the beaming officer made a few last minute
calculations.  Finally, all was ready.  The beaming officer slowly
moved has hand through the hologram which caused one spatial dimension
of Bill's team to change ever so slightly.  They vanished from view,
just as the square leaving Flatland vanished.  With that spatial
dimension adjusted, the bizarre curvature allowed their usual position
to be almost immediately altered.  It was good that the movement
occured so quickly, so that their bodies didn't begin to break down.
Transporting this way was OK for relatively small distances, but a
voyage across a galaxy would destroy the voyager.

The team soon appeared on Roxy's inhospitable surface.  ``This place
is creepy,'' said Nathaniel as he surveyed the rocky red landscape of
the windswept freezing planet.  The harsh expanse of scenery was
interupted by a large mostly featureless black buildings.

``Abe, can your hear me?'' inquired Bill, sending a signal back to 
his ship.  

Abe Burns, who was in charge of the ship in Bill's absense, replied
``Yes, your signal is very strong.  We'll try to keep the transporter
system locked on, and the ship ready to jump through Tai Stargate.''
Abe, who stood just under six feet tall, was the same age as Dennis,
and had studied with him many years ago on Earth.  A concerned look
swept across Abe's face.  He was more comfortable and happier while
engaged in his research than when commanding a space exploration ship.
Nonetheless, Abe was a superb and brilliant officer and Bill felt he
could rely on him.

Back on the planet's surface, the landing party planned their next
move.  Thom reported, ``My sensors suggest that the entire planet can
potentially activate a shield if danger is suspected.  Thus if we move
the ship near the planet and launch a volley of weapons, they will
probably have no effect.  Moreover, we'd be attacked by droid defense
ships, of which there must be many as this is where they are
manufactured.''

Nathaniel inquired, ``Why don't we simply beam a collection of
time-actived megabombs onto the surface of the planet?''

Dennis responded ``Extensive research has shown  that they would probably
explode the moment their other spatial dimension is modified, and our
ship would be destroyed.  Our equipment and bodies are able to stand a
slight bit of spatial distortion but it's far too risky to ask the
same of a megabomb.  I'd love such a weapon, but alas.''

Thom then suggested, ``Nathaniel, if we can get you safely into one of
these buildings, do you think you could cause it to self destruct?''

Nathaniel responded, ``Sure.  Not only that, but judging from the way
our scans suggest these buildings are connected, I might even be able
to start a carefully timed chain reaction, which would result in all
of the buildings exploding almost simultaneously.  That might even rip
this god-forsaken planet apart!''  This last sentence was pronounced
with an almost disturbing sense of glee.

Dennis, Thom, and Bill were stunned.  Bill asked, ``Do you think you
can really do that, Nathaniel?''

``Yes, I bet I can,'' affirmed Nathaniel, ``make sure our ship is
ready to get us off this planet quickly.''

Abe's studied some sensors on the bridge.  He didn't like what he
saw. ``Bill, you might be in trouble.  The planet's shield is
activating.''

``I'm surprised, but a few droids are headed our way.  Somehow they
must have detected us.  Try to keep our communications channel open,''
responded Bill.  Unfortunately, Abe's reply could not be heard because
of Planet Roxy's shield.  ``Take cover behind this ledge, which leads
to that building!''  commanded Bill.  ``We'll hold off these droids as
we approach the building, then try to get inside so that Nathaniel can
work his magic.  Thom, keep trying to contact our ship.  Dennis, take
out as many droids as you can.''

Bolts of energy flared by Dennis's head, as he peared through his
hand-held shield over the ledge, took aim, lowered the shield for a
moment, and fired.  A droid exploded in flames just as his shield
re-appeared in time to protect him from another volley.  ``That was a
little too close,'' whispered Dennis as he became more cautious in his
defense of the group and pulled from his pack his most advanced
weaponry systems.

Soon Nathaniel, Bill, and Thom arrived at an entrance to the large
black building, as Dennis continued to set up various high-tech
defenses to hold of the droids.  The entrance to the building was
guarded by a black force shield, which was similar to but much
stronger than the one that had imprisoned them on earth long ago.
Thom tried directly to open the door via the control panel but was
unsuccessful.  

``We're heavily armed.  Let's just blast the door away,'' suggested
Nathaniel, ``Thom, stand back.''  Nathaniel blasted away at the door
several times, then Bill and Thom both joined in for a moment.  The
dark entrance didn't appear to change, but Thom informed them that
its strength had diminished approximately 10 percent.  

Dennis noticed the situation and yelled ``Stand way back and raise
your body shields!''  For a moment he turned from systematically
picking of the droids, who were by now mostly pinned down in some
cracks in the ground, adjusted his angry black and silver rifle, and
fired one extended red bolt of energy which sailed slowly through the
scorched atmosphere and injected itself into the portal.  Dennis
turned back to continue laying down defenses as the portal disolved.
``I've got you guys covered out here.  You can enter the building.
I'll let you know if the situation changes or if the droids
send serious reforcements.''

``Let's move in,'' agreed Bill, as he led Thom and Nathaniel into the
mysterious building.  As the three passed through the door they
entered a very dark corridor whose lights had all broken because the
door had been ripped apart so badly that much of the atmosphere in the
building had violently escaped.  Fortunately their space suits were
euipped with various lights that their face shields enhanced. 
They turned left and proceeded down the corridor.  After walking for
several minutes, worried at every moment that they'll be attacked,
Thom says: ``This is strange.  My sensor suggests faint signs of 
life nearby.  Perhaps we are somehow throwing off the readings,
or there is a native life form on this planet that thrives in this
building.''  The corridor turns right and they continue to follow
it.  

As they pass two heavy black force doors, Nathaniel boasts quietly,
``After I get through with the control room we'll be able to catch a
glance in there on our way out.''  Finally, ahead on the right, they
spy what must be the control room.  Four tense droids are just visible
inside, and there is no door.
 
Thom says to Bill, ``Droids don't seem very intelligent.  Perhaps if
we make a noise they'll all come out and we can shoot them.  They're
expecting us anyways.'' As Thom speaks, his sounds are completely
muffled by his helmet.  The sounds are received by a small microphone,
encrypted, and broadcast via a weak signal that is usually lost to an
eavesdropper in the ambient radio waves.

Dennis's signal is a little stronger---``Bill, this is Dennis.  The
situation out here is becoming critical!  At first the droids were
easy to hold off, but they seem to be quickly adapting.  I've only
able to maintain our defense this long because of our superior weapons
technology.  You're team better hurry up.  Also, I've not been able to
re-establish communications with Abe.''

Bill had little time to consider other possibilities and decided to
follow Thom's plan.  They're shots exploded towards the control room.
As the smoked died down, there was no sign that the droids had
relinquished their position in the control room, which deeply puzzled
Thom.  Suddenly a searing laser bolt ripped through the air from
behind, and burned Nathaniel's right arm.  Thom and Bill returned fire
as the approaching Droid tossed itself through the air shooting two
laser pistols, an automated version of the Hong Kong action superstar
Chow Yun Fat.  A cursed escaped Thom's lips as he dodged to the
ground.  Time slowed as laser fire exploded everwhere.  At last the
droid's shocking technique succumbed to Thom and Bill's superior
weapons.  It shut off.

A similar scene ensued as the three desperately fought for the control
room.  As droids jumped through the air firing, the droids were
eventually merciless ripped apart by Bill and Thom's scatter guns.
Nathaniel swore the droids fought for their ``life''.  ``Something is
wrong, very wrong,'' he commented, as he began his work on the master
control center.  Just as promised, even with his right arm badly
burned, he was able to shut down power to the droids in the building.
He worked further on engineering a chain reaction that would hopefully
destroy the planet while also allowing them to re-establish
communication with Abe and beam to safety.  After many very long tense
minutes, Nathaniel at last announced: ``I'm done.  Once I set the
reaction in motion there is no turning back.  Probably this will allow
us to contact Abe and get out of here.  Just give the order Bill.''

A worried look hung to Bill's face as he reassuringly spoke his
trademark: ``It's given.''  

Nathaniel moved his hands innocently, there was a warm buzz, and It
began.  ``This planet will be history within 15 minutes,'' said
Nathaniel solemly, ``let's hope that we aren't also.''

Just then, a pale but strong chinese woman stumbled out of the hallway
and into the control room.  She coughed and spasmed as she breathed
the thin air, then wrapped her arms around her slime-covered unclothed
body.  Looks of astonishment and fear mixed with guilt escaped the
space suits of the three, as the single word ``help'' escaped her
lips.

``Abe here.  The planet's breaking apart and its shield is gone.  We
have a fix on you.  Permission to beam you out of there?

Instead of hearing the expected ``It's already been given'', Abe
received a nervous reply, ``Five to beam back---we'll help you to get
a lock on the human near us.  Have our best medic there!''  In under a
minute, Bill, Thom, Nathaniel, Dennis, and the mysterious woman
appeared in the transporter room.  The ship jumped into Tai
stargate, safely escaping the huge explosion that followed.





\chapter{Kelly Wong}
[[This is a new chapter that explains the droids method of using their
prey, and also life on board the starship.  Kelly Wong is the name
of the human that they found at the droid manufacturing world.]]


\chapter{Deceived}
[[I'm reading page 
file:/home/was/papers/fiction/droids/scans/small_danger_of_droids044.jpg]]

\chapter{Escape}

\chapter{The Final Battle}


\bibliography{biblio}
\end{document}




NOTES:

[[Plot spoilers: They'll set the autodestruct system up and activate
it.  This will open all of the doors.  Some crazed people will emerge
and then die from the lack of atmosphere, just as they are leaving the
building.  It will destroy places on the other side of the planet.
Abe will come back.  They'll beam out.... disturbed.]]


[[Upcomming plot spoiler: Where are all of the humans?  Are they dead?
Why were Bill and the others captured and not killed the first time?
Why are the droids getting SMARTER?  Because they encase the humans
(and other life forms they've previously captured) in little prisons
nearby and use them to help make decisions, slowly getting smarter as
the expert system ``learns'' about its enemy with the help of the
human problem solvers.  Bill and the others discover this just before
the planet blows, but after it is too late to stop the explosion.  An
untold number of human slaves, who are encased in the droid
manufacturing stations, are destroyed in the explosion.  Chilling
thought---maybe the many droid ships that Dennis has destroyed so far
contained a human ``mind''.  Human shields.  The reason the humans
aren't all located on Earth is because of communications lag time.
This will make the rest of the book that much more difficult to write,
and the thought process of the enemy will become increasingly
chilling.]]



[ danger\_of\_droids\_033.jpg ??  goes for a bit, then resumes with 
danger\_of\_droids020.jpg, I think.  I'm changing details and 
order a lot at this point, so it makes more sense.]