The bleak winter landscape was pock marked with smoking craters. Metal bodies lay twisted in the late evening sun while lifeless electronic eyes stared into the darkening sky. To the east, a stealth troop transport streaked low across the horizon. Inside thirty elite America combat robots sat quietly. Twenty-nine robots maintained identical postures, heads, torsos, and limbs held the same, swaying in unison to the buffeting of the aircraft. The thirtieth; however, was different. Its metal hands tightly gripped the edge of the seat with its head hung low as if in deep thought.
The transport itself was a drone although, should a mission require, the cockpit could accommodate a human. Number Thirty was closest to the cockpit. The subdued lighting flashed twice then turned red signaling drop point arrival and, as one, all thirty robot-commandos stood up and turned aft where the rear of the transport yawned open. They began jumping from the craft two at a time using stealthily placed decent jets to slow their fall. Finally, Twenty-Nine and Thirty stood at the dark lip of the exit. Without hesitation, Twenty-Nine leaped into the darkness. Thirty stayed were it was. It watched silently as its squad-mates organized for the mission then look up to the transport when they computed Thirty's absence. Thirty turned back into the transport shutting the exit.
Major Tennyson was the first officer to note a problem with the mission. An overweight warning was flashing red on his terminal. Clicking another window open, he scanned the views from several interior cameras. He was surprised to see one of the commandos still on the transport after the drop signal had been given. He sent a query to the robot's diagnostic systems, but they came back green. Major Tennyson opened a tight beam satellite signal to the transport.
"Number Thirty, why are you still on board?"
Thirty looked up to the camera opposite itself then turned and walked forward.
"Damn!" swore Tennyson.
Another click opened a window to General Holden's command. The General looked to Major Tennyson's image with a questioning expression on his grizzled face.
"Sir, we've run into a problem with the Black-Snow commando raid."
"What?" General Holden said with concern.
"Number Thirty has not left the transport and does not respond to voice commands."
General Holden opened the same window of interior transport cameras as Major Tennyson along with a view of Tennyson's command actions. He could see that number Thirty was now near the entrance to the cockpit using a screwdriver from a repair kit to open an access panel. Jesus, thought the general, it's trying to take over the transport. He opened a channel to the aircraft.