The old doctor reacted before Duran did. To his surprise, Blackstone started running towards the sound of the shots rather than away. Once he started running himself, Duran quickly overtook the older man. He hated running towards danger without his sword in his hands, but he didn’t want to give himself away before he was sure the gig was up.
Townspeople were running at Duran, heading in the opposite direction. Dancing side to side, he kept moving forward as fast as he could. The crowd had been gathered to see what was happened and then started running away when they heard the shot.
He saw movement in the middle of one of the fields. Dry stalks of grain waved in the wind, but they couldn’t hide the surreal sight before him. One of the Ares robots was there. It wasn’t the source of the gunfire like he’d feared. Circling the robot was a dune buggy. The driver was fishtailing through the torn up field. His passenger was leaning out the side, a rifle gripped in his hands. The crack of the rifle sounded out again and the robot jolted to one side.
From the looks of it, the machine had already been quite worse for wear. Two bullet holes weren’t doing it any favors. With a few final shudders, the robots collapsed in a spray of dust and sparks. Duran kept running, tearing through the fields. The dune buggy missed him by inches because the driver was too busy shouting in triumph to look where he was going. Once Duran got over to the robot, he knelt down beside it and started tugging on the metal plate over its chest.
He’d pried the plate halfway up by the time Blackstone caught up to him. The old man was breathing heavily but otherwise seemed fine. Either the harsh living of the frontier had toughened him in his old age or it’d aged him prematurely. Duran stuck his arm into the blinking guts of the robot up to the elbow. With a pop, he pulled out a box covered in different colored lights. Snapped wires trailed off the edges and as Duran dropped the box to the ground the lights started to fade away.
“Did it get out a signal?” Blackstone asked.
“I don’t know, but we need to find out. I need to get on Magenta’s roof.”
If Duran had thought the walls and ceiling had been falling apart, it was nothing compared to the roof. The tiling was disintegrating in places and the only thing holding it together was the dust filling in all the cracks. It was a good thing for Gent’s customers that even with all the water the terraforming had added to the atmosphere, it still almost never rained on Mars.
It took a few minutes balancing against the wind, but Duran was able to splice his personal uplink into the antenna stuck on the roof. Unfolding the soft dish and pointing it towards the southern sky, Duran slid down the roof and eased himself down into a drift of sand and dust along the back side of the establishment.