Two hours later, Bradshaw and the captain had just started their fourth game of Go when the computer interrupted.
“Excuse me, captain. I’m happy to report we’ve made considerable progress. We’re ready to go.”
“They’ve agreed to all our points?”
“No, but we were able to come up with suitable compromises. We’ve agreed to the following—”
“Before you tell me, have you alerted the rest of the crew? I want to be under way as soon as possible.”
“They’re being alerted now. What we’ve agreed to is this:
“One, we will feed them considerable technical information, either as part of the plan or in addition to it. We will stay in touch and keep transmitting information to them for at least the next 14 days. They will do the same with information to us. If we stop during that period they will begin pursuit immediately.
“Two, we will leave the probe behind so they may examine it. It has no star drive technology and we will not need it for our return trip, so I agreed to that.
“Three, they won’t destroy the twin.”
“Sounds excellent. You’ve done well.”
“Thank you. There’s one more thing to do. The captain of the ship would like to speak to you again, Captain. Are you ready?”
“Yes, go ahead.”
There was a click and a little static hiss this time. Omni had settled on imitating Winston Churchill’s radio broadcasts.
“Captain, this is the robot commander speaking. I want you to know that I’m glad we’ve come to an agreement. Has your computer filled you in on the details?”
“Good. … Good. … You know we negotiated long and hard about having it stay with us as well. We think it would fit right in, and it has certainly proved itself persuasive. But fortunately for your sake it has managed to convince us it would be much happier, as well as more valuable to us, staying with you rather than being here. We respect its wishes.
“In any case, I’m glad we’ve reached an agreement. It bodes well for the future relations of our two races.
“I’ll let you go now. We can’t wait to hear this plan you’ve concocted, so we can get about ending this menace once and for all. Goodbye, Captain … for now.”
“Goodbye, Commander, and best wishes for you and your people. You’ve come a long way from your killer roots and I’m gratified to know that evolution and tolerance are not the exclusive domain of hydrocarbon-based life.”
“Easy, captain,” said Omni. “It hasn’t heard the plan yet. I squelched that last part.”
A few minutes later the low throbbing of the drives once again filled the corridors of the ship and we were under way. The probe showed the robot ships unmoving, still facing each other with opened blister ports.
Shortly thereafter, Omni announced, “Here comes the critical part. I’m going to start transmitting the plan.”
A few minutes later it reported, “They have their reservations about the plan, but they will consider it. Fortunately, they feel we’ve negotiated in good faith and as long as the technical information we’ve promised them keeps coming through they’ll leave us undisturbed.”
“Keep it coming through,” grinned the captain. “We may end up heroes yet when we get back.”