And that was Just the First Few Hours

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“Here ya go.” Willy held up a cylinder the size of a beer can. He, Cora, Kim, and his father had returned to Willy’s shop, with Kim jamming all the cameras in the dome to avoid detection until they’d reached the shop. Then Willy had put together the device he now held.

“This will take Deus Vult out?” Cora accepted the gadget gingerly and slipped it into her coat pocket.

“It’s like a shaped-charge, but it fires an EMP instead of an explosive. Just place the business end against his gut and push the button on the other end. It’s magnetic so it’ll attach to his surface and remain in place after he falls. Then it’ll zap him every few seconds to prevent him from rebooting.”

“Right here.” Kim lifted her shirt and pointed at her belly. “That particular model keeps the processor and memory modules in the stomach area, where they can be protected by heavier armor in a less obvious location. It was designed that way because most peoples’ first impulse is to aim for the head or chest.”

“That’s good to know.” Cora turned back to Willy. “I’d like to have something to fall back on in case this thing is taken away from me or I’m captured. How about an omnidirectional EMP that I can set off once I’m close enough to him?”

“Whoa.” Kim stepped forward and put a hand on Cora’s shoulder. “You want to suicide-bomb this guy?”

“I don’t want to, believe me. My internal components are shielded and will recover quickly, but so will his, so I’ll need you guys nearby to charge in and finish him off if I have to trigger the secondary device.” Cora shrugged. “I’ve been ‘emped’ a few times, so I know it sucks, but I’ll survive. Willy, could you whip one up for me?”

Chechik shook his head. “Not necessary. We’ve got EMP rifles in the armory. This would be the first time we’ve ever used them on a sapient AI. The only times we’ve needed them was to disable automatons that malfunctioned. My whole team will be standing by. We’ll follow you as closely as possible. We’ll be carrying the EMP rifles in case Deus Vult gets the drop on you or has any other bots working for him, and shotguns loaded with beanbag rounds in case he has any organic minions. Kim will be jamming any cameras and sensors we come across, and I suggest you do the same to make it look like you’re the one knocking all of ’em out. How are you planning to get within range?”

“I’ll pretend to be hostile to organic life just like he is and see if I can convince him to let me work with him.” Cora met each of their gazes. “I’ll have to say some terrible things to convince him that I want to be his acolyte, but if he’s as megalomaniacal as his name makes him seem, he should at least consider the possibility long enough for me to get within striking distance. Just … try not to hold anything I say to him against me, okay? I won’t mean any of it.”

“I understand completely. I did a few undercover operations when I worked for the Foundation, so I know all about saying and doing whatever it takes to look like I’m on the bad guy’s side.” Chechik clapped her gently on the shoulder.

“No worries.” Kim smiled and held her hand. “Deus Vult might have a way to detect any communication between us, so we can’t give you any info and you can’t send anything out to us, but be sure to record everything you see and hear once you go in.”

“I’ll need to shut off all the wireless connections I have to prevent him from trying to hack me, anyway. If I get him with the EMP device, I’ll open my connections again and send you the all-clear. If something goes wrong and I can’t trigger it, I’ll link up just long enough to send you an alert and then close myself off again.”

“That’ll have to be good enough.” Kim glanced at Chechik. “Bring me something big enough to get to his CPU. Your armory probably doesn’t have any projectile weapons that’d do it, so I’ll take whatever’s on hand. Industrial drill, plasma cutter, thermal lance, anything that’d let me cut through his armor and get to his brain. If we can remove his processor and memory modules from his body, you’ll be able to question him safely and then put him on trial.”

“You’ll have what you need by the time we’re in position.”


“Just come back to us in one piece, okay?” Willy’s face took on a hint of red. “I don’t want to miss out on our date.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Well. Guess we should get into position.” Kim stepped forward and kissed her. “For luck.”

“That’s as good an excuse as any.” Cora grinned and turned to Willy. “Good-luck kiss?”

“Sure, why not?” He put his arms around her and pressed his lips to hers. Her processor raced again and she held on for a few more seconds before stepping back. “Alright. Let’s get this over with.”

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