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on his panel before him, Kuehler twisted around in his seat and caught sight of about four or five Starfuries coming toward them. It was hard to tell exactly how many it was since they were moving so quickly.

"Target and fire at will," said Marlette, serving as squad leader since Susan Ivanova-lucky her-actually had slept her way through a crisis, for once.

The 'bots had converged upon the artifact, were moving extremely quickly. Even if their power drained, they would continue to move at high speed without the benefit of friction to slow them down. With momentum alone, they could do serious damage. Perhaps even irreparable.

The Starfuries descended toward the 'bots, blasting away at anything that appeared to be moving. Several of the 'bots tried to avoid the weapons fire. That action alone was enough to catch Marlette's interest, because 'bots in general were very singular in purpose. Sure, there were 'bots that had built-in avoidance capability, but those were usually of the exploratory variety and far more sophisticated than the straightforward, single-task 'bots that had been stationed around the artifact to aid in the creation of the framework. These 'bots should have about as much independent survival instinct as a toaster. Combat tactics and evasive maneuvers simply weren't part of their programming.

Yet here they were, doing everything they could to avoid the attack of the Starfuries.

In fact, one of the 'bots was so resourceful and sneaky that it actually managed to slip past the line of fire and was about to smash into the artifact. How much damage a collision by a single 'bot would have done was debatable, but Marlette made certain that it was moot by targeting and blasting apart the 'bot just short of its target.

"Delta Leader to C and C ...
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