Bright Red Dot 5

With his head down against the dust lashing at his face, it took him a few moments to hear the droning over the shrieking of the wind.  Turning back, he saw a massive shape coming into focus out of the red haze staining the sky.  It was an airplane, a rarity in the thin air of Mars.  The turbine engines struggled to swallow the dust storm, giving off a chorus of whining groans as they barely skimmed the surface.

The huge craft swooped down towards him, blotting out what little he could see of the sky.  A cargo bay opened in the back of the craft under the tail.  He could see the ramp coming into view under the plane.  A half dozen shining metal spheres rolled out and plummeted towards the ground.  Duran felt the impact as each one struck Mars.  The plumes of dust they threw up were quickly lost in the storm.

The spheres had disappeared into craters in the dust, but Duran could see metallic limbs rising up into view, digging into the ground for purchase.  The three limbs pulled round metal bodies upright.  They were exact copies of the three robots he’d just forcibly dismantled.  Except this time, there were twice as many.

At least now he knew how the machines had gotten so far away from the city.  That was cold comfort when six sets of laser sights started to fire up.  Duran turned and ran for the center of the growing dust storm.

Fine grit ripped across his exposed skin.  He wound the free ends of the scarf around his forehead, leaving only his hair and a narrow slit for his goggles exposed.  Turning up his collar, he held an arm in front of his face and trudged through the storm.  He lost all sense of direction.  The ground swirled under his feet and coated his hair and clothes.

Any sane person would have been rushing for the nearest shelter.  The dust storms of Mars were legendary.  Sometimes they lasted for days and buried outlying villages.  Everywhere Duran looked was red.  Staggering forward, the brighter red streams of the laser sights were quickly lost in the shifting dust.  Tiny particles worked through seams in his clothing and gaps in the scarf.  He felt a red film slowly coat his skin and weigh him down.

He didn’t know how long he kept his body moving through the storm.  Though he was battered and bruised by the wind, he was vaguely aware that if he stopped dragging himself forward, he would sink under the shifting sands and dust as it swirled up and fell back down.  The inside of his nose and throat felt like crusted leather and he almost choked from not being able to cough and spit into the scarf over his mouth.

It was getting darker.  Duran didn’t know if the sun was setting, the storm was getting even worse, or he was losing consciousness.  As his legs melted underneath him and he tumbled to the ground, he realized it must be the latter.  He should’ve taken his chances with the robots.  A sword wasn’t much good against a storm.

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