“THOR SLAYMASTER,” the robot voice said. “YOU ARE SURROUNDED. SURRENDER NOW OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES.”
Thor Slaymaster sat immobile on the gravel roof of the Hotel Zinderneuf. The presence of a full corps of robot security forces had as little impact on him as a vicious blow might have, if it were struck by an enraged termite. Though the night was hot, he didn’t sweat. He hadn’t sweated since the time he had to chase the Peruvian long-distance runner who had stolen the Omega Box. Thor Slaymaster didn’t have time to sweat, or joke, or do anything except kill.
“Aren’t you the least bit concerned about this?” Kenny asked. He was huddled against the closest parapet in an attempt to put as much masonry as he could between himself and the path of robot tracer bullets.
“No,” Thor said.
Kenny was as nervous as Thor wasn’t. “They’re all over the place,” he said. “And they’re not ordinary robots. Those are Mark 13 Kill-O-Bots, each equipped with laser sights, chain guns, and liquid metal flamethrowers. They were made by Yoyodyne to combat the zombie uprising in Romania.”
“Zombies.” Thor said. He tilted his head ever so slightly, as if to say, zombies don’t scare me, they’re slow and they go down like anything else when you empty a load of buckshot into their bellies. Thor Slaymaster had killed enough zombies that he didn’t have to explain himself.
“You don’t understand,” Kenny said. “They’re here to kill you. They won’t have any compunction about tearing down this entire hotel to get you. They’re remorseless. They’re unstoppable. They care only about their mission and will kill anyone who gets in their way.”
Thor Slaymaster never smiled, and he didn’t this time, but if he was the kind of person who smiled, he might have.
“Of course,” Kenny said, “look who I’m talking to. How did you get yourself into this predicament, anyway?”
“Predicament. Pickle. Problem. Situation. Call it what you want. Don’t you understand? Don’t you get it? This is the Alamo, Thor. This is Little Big Horn. This is an impossible situation where you are surrounded by superior firepower. There is no way out. These robots cannot be bought off, cannot be reasoned with, and cannot be stopped. It’s over, Thor. It’s time to face facts. It’s time to surrender.”
“Let me guess,” Kenny said. “You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘surrender’.”
“Kenny,” Thor said. “You are hurting my feelings.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Kenny knew that people who hurt Thor Slaymaster’s feelings didn’t always live long enough to do it again.
“They think they have me cornered. They think they can make me give up. They think they can make me crawl. But there is one thing that they did not think about.”
“What is that?” asked Kenny.
“They have a weakness. All men have weaknesses. Right now your weakness is worrying about getting killed. The man out there, the one who ordered the robots, he is worried about collateral damage and insurance companies and all sorts of things that are not relevant to his mission.”
“Do you have a weakness?” Kenny asked.
“I’m allergic to strawberries. But that’s not important right now.”
“Well, see, here’s the thing, Thor. Those robots out there? They don’t have human weaknesses.”
“You are wrong. The robots are programmed by men. Men make assumptions. Those assumptions can be wrong. That is their weakness.”
“I don’t understand,” Kenny said.
Thor Slaymaster rocked back, just a touch, then shot forward, towards the spot where Kenny was huddling. He took hold of Kenny’s belt, and in one smooth motion, threw him up and over the parapet.
The Kill-O-Bots caught the movement on the roof in the top range of their peripheral vision. As Kenny said, they had been designed to kill zombies. Zombies are dangerous, fearsome, and implacable, but they are not often airborne. The robots saw a target and they shot at it, hurling red-hot liquid metal projectiles up into the air at Kenny’s hurtling body. A few of them hit Kenny, enough to incinerate him before he hit the ground. Most of them didn’t, though.
The globs of molten metal went straight up and came straight down.
The standard programming package for the Mark 13 Kill-O-Bot did not include precautions against being attacked by their own ammunition. The street below was a burning, searing pile of disconnected robot limbs flailing in a puddle of molten steel. The remaining robots took cover where they could. They did not understand what had happened, or why, but anything that could take out a third of their compatriots in less than a second called for caution.
Thor Slaymaster flipped a switch on his wristband. “Charlie,” he said. “On the way up.”
“You’re crazy. That’s suicide. They’ll start shooting rockets at you the minute you take off.”
“Just open the cargo doors.”
“You had better be right about this.”
Thor Slaymaster strode across the rooftop and strapped on his jetpack. He rose into the night on a column of fire. Charlie lowered the doors on the orbiting C-130 in time for Thor to cut the jetpack engines and glide into the cargo pay.
“That’s a hell of a mess you made down there, Slaymaster.”
“Kenny deserves some of the credit.”
“Be that as it may,” Charlie said. “It looked like Custer’s Last Stand down there. How did you jet out?”
“If ten percent of a Kill-O-Bot corps dies, there’s an automatic wireless firmware update. They can’t fire during the update. Safety measure.”
Charlie looked at Thor with an appraising eye. “I assume that after all that killing and maiming and tormenting that you just did, now you’re interested in having sex.”
“Whenever you’re ready,” Thor said.
Charlie stripped off her uniform. Her skin was wet, glistening, and green in the warm light of the cargo hold. “Tentacles in or out this time?” she asked.
“In, then out,” Thor said.