On the other side of the dune, Duran bobbed and weaved, his purple coat flashing bright against the rusty backdrop. The three robots galloped after, gaining on him. Risking a look back, he saw one was right on his tail and the other two were moving to box him in from the sides.
Leaping into the air, Duran slammed both feet down into the loose dust. He slid forward, plowing twin furrows. Instead of trying to keep his balance, Duran focused on getting a firm grip on the handle rising up from between his shoulder blades. As soon as his fingers brushed it, the material softened and molded to his grip.
As the handle oozed into the creases and pores of his palm, sticking fast, a small screen opened up in one corner of his field of vision, projected onto his eye. Lined in red, he could see one of the robots racing after him. The one right behind him.
The machine registered he was slowing down. Its gun arm unfolded from its back, the triple laser sights activating. A rush of steam shot out from the metal centipede clutching Duran’s spine. It leapt off his back and exploded through the air. Slivers of metal fanned out, snapping into place and forming interlocking blades that fit together into one massive sword.
The blade glowed a dull red as waves of heat shot from vents along its length. The last of Duran’s forward momentum vanished and he spun back towards his pursuer. The robot’s gun arm was still coming to bear, but it fired anyway in a futile attempt to hit the prey that’d suddenly turned predator. A three round burst cut through the howl of the wind. The bullets sailed harmlessly into the sky. Duran’s blade plowed through the dust and then sliced forward. The sword pulled him over the robot, flashing as it cut through the air.
Duran landed, absorbing the impact with his knees and the sifting dust. Turning back, he saw the robot stumble on for a few more three-legged strides before it split in half with a soft metallic pop. The two halves kept moving for a few moments, spilling blinking fiber optic cables onto the dunes and then falling still and dark.
Though his lungs were aching from running, unable to be quenched by the thin Martian air, he forced himself to start moving again. The other two robots had changed course to surround him. The good news was that they wouldn’t have him in a crossfire for a few more seconds. The bad news was he only had a few seconds to find cover.
As luck would have it, he didn’t find cover, it found him. Or more accurately, it tripped him. His foot caught on something hard underneath the swirling dust. As Duran fell over onto the other side of the half buried object, he recognized it immediately—it was a Foundry.