SED 2011 Day 2!

I imagine this to be part of my Chuck Chaykin space western universe. Almost 600 words of two-fisted robot-busting action!

Title

ZT Tullock rolled through the dust, heat from multiple plasma beams searing his tracks. He tucked in behind a stone outcropping and fought to catch his breath. His own blaster smoked in his hands, useless. The stone at his back was already warming under a concentrated barrage.

ZT had been in better shape. Dust caked his boots and flight suit. Pebbles stung the raw abrasions on his palms. The helmet hanging from his belt was cracked, the comm unit shattered by a close call. He licked his lips and tasted blood in his mustache.

“Zebediah Thomas Tullock,” called a voicebox over the whine of plasma. “Come out with your appendages raised. Your biological functions will be terminated at a date yet to be determined. For the moment your co-operation will result in minimal harm.”

Tullock was unconvinced. He spun the cartridge in his pistol. There was some charge left, but the overheated capacitor made shooting back a risky proposition. He risked a glance over his clay battlement.

Standing in the open some twenty yards away were the two pursuing ‘bots, the A35 brothers. Their chassis were scorched by Tullock’s previous attempts to shake pursuit, but they still looked solid. Then one took a step forward; its segmented cylindrical legs moved stiffly, clearly jammed up with the dust and sand of Harkness IV’s southern continent. Tullock ducked back down as the machines swept their weapons toward his exposed head.

Tullock fumbled in his pockets and withdrew his pocket knife. He gave the blade a dry kiss and jammed it into his pistol’s cartridge. The gun squealed in protest and began to superheat in his hands. Quickly he jerked the helmet from his belt and hurled it out into the open to his left. Fire from the robots shifted to track. Tullock rolled from behind the rock and hurled his whining pistol at the robots.

They had been unconvinced by his ruse; as one blasted his helmet, the other had ceased fire and waited for the human to expose himself. Tullock screamed as plasma shells etched across his outstretched arm and shoulder. His own aim had been true, though, and his pistol tumbled across the sand between the brothers. The damaged cartridge detonated, enveloping the robots in a solid sphere of crackling blue and orange energy. Tullock shielded his eyes for a few moments, and when he dropped his hand the attackers were gone, replaced by a concave slab of fused glass. A few pieces of scrap metal littered the sand around the blast zone.

Tullock grunted and propped himself against the rock. He pulled open his flight suit and peeled the smoldering fabric away from his injured shoulder and arm. A jagged line of plasma barbs led from a few inches above his heart to midway down his left bicep. They glowed white hot, and left to their own devices would continue to burn his own body chemistry as fuel. Tullock clenched his teeth, pulled on a glove, and set to yanking each barb free of his skin. He had to cauterize the wounds with the barbs while they were still hot. The smell of his own sizzling flesh scorched his nostrils. The pain nearly overwhelmed him, but he knew if he left any in he’d wake up with half a corpse less than he had now.

“Sons of bitches,” he muttered as he threw the last barb to the ground. He let himself sink to the comparatively cool sand and pass out.

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