The silence of space drifted by outside, but inside there was a constant sound. Two sounds, really. The thrum of the space lasers, a gift from the president himself, tough to aim through the narrow portholes in the door. And another sound, steady, bone- chilling. Clank. Clank. Clank.
One look was all it took to know the lasers wouldn't be enough. It would take an army to do what needed to be done.
Dirk Nowitzki wiped sweat from his brow, fiddling with the shuttle's control console. "I've never seen one this complicated," he said, a note of worry in his voice. "And it's damaged..."
Carlisle put a hand on his tall power forward's shoulder. "Just do your best," he said, quietly. Outside the clanking grew louder.
When Mark Cuban had said the team was looking into "biomechanics," who could have guessed it would end like...this?
"God, they creep me out!" Bernard James shouted from his post at the door, the only one with military experience. "And I've seen some screwed up stuff!"
Dirk didn't turn around. "Keep ‘em off me, Sarge," he said. "We need time."
Clank. Clank. CLANK.
The space behind the door was filling up. Metal bodies, 7 feet tall. Metal faces. Metal smiles.
A burst of laser fire shattered the room's silence, Monta Ellis emptying his firearm in frenetic bursts not in controlled discharges, like the others. "HAVE IT ALL, YOU MONSTERS," he shouted, "HAVE IT ALL." Soon, he'd burnt out his laser's charge. "Coach, I'm all out! I can't shoot any more!"
Carlisle chuckled. "There's a first."
"I wish we had more sharpshooters," Calderon said, picking off an android here, one there. Donnie Nelson's face was white. "Even Peja, Morrow and Jet wouldn't help us now," he muttered.
The things had started out as teaching bots, over a year ago, meant to mimic---well, anything, really. The proper movements for oft-injured players to avoid re-injury, the go-to moves of opposing stars, in practice. But some time in the previous offseason, they'd been used to try to train up Jared Cunningham, see if there was anything that could be salvaged there.
They had not liked that. They had not liked that at all.
In retrospect, Dirk thought, trying to work out the sequence to cause the shuttle's release from the command center, Kobe-bot should have been a warning to everyone. What it had done to its robot teammates....Dirk shuddered. But they'd been told it was just a glitch
A loud screeching sound silenced everything in the room. The command center door opened a fraction. "Jesus!" Marion shouted. "They're robots! Of course they're getting into the systems!" A heart-rending screech and the door opened another inch. Everything stopped.
Dirk and Carlisle exchanged glances, an unspoken message passing through the still, recycled air between them. "I can't do it fast enough, Coach," Dirk said. "I'm not even sure it can be done, if they've really gotten access to the system."
Carlisle only nodded, a weary expression on his face. What else was there to say? Just one thing, really."This shuttle can't be allowed to reach Earth, Dirk." Dirk bit his lip, then nodded, too.
Carlisle sighed, a long, heavy sound like a balloon escaping his lungs for the freedom of the upper air. "I love you, Dirk," he said.
Dirk's shoulders slumped, then straightened, his goofy grin taking over his face like the androids had taken over the hold. "Everyone does," he laughed.
He raised one hand in the air, fingers raised in the pistol salute, one last jersey tug in the face of God.
Then he pushed the button.