Page 36

I leapt directly to the roof of the next harvester over—the one I’d just meticulously turned into a time bomb. All that work for nothing. Sigh.

Snip, snip, snip, snip!

The other two harvesters backed away.

“Oh, no you don’t!” I said. I leapt from the roof and hit the ground running. I caught up with ease.

I climbed to the top of my third victim and got to snipping. Like its brethren, it stopped dead as soon as the last antenna was gone.

I had a bit of a run to catch up to the last one, but I got there soon enough. I snipped three of the antennas and was just about to get the fourth when my left side exploded with pain and I flew through the air. Well, not “air.” Vacuum. You know what I mean.

I smacked into the ground and rolled.

“Whu?” I said. It took me a second, but I realized what happened. Those asswipes at Sanchez had made the harvester smack me with its front-loader scoop!

Sons of bitches! That could have ruptured my suit! Sure, I was trashing their property but you don’t kill someone for that, do you?!

Oh, it was on.

The harvester dropped its scoop halfway down and rolled toward me.

I got to my feet, ran in front of the main camera, and flipped it my middle finger. Then I bashed it with the cutters in my other hand. No more visual data for you, assholes.

“Whoever you are, we know you’re out there,” I heard over the main EVA channel. It was Bob Lewis. Dammit! Of course the guild would send their most skilled member to lead the posse. “Don’t make this hard. If we have to physically restrain you, risking our safety, we’ll make you pay for it.”

He had a point. Contrary to space movies, fighting in an EVA suit is monumentally dangerous. I had no intention of doing that. If they caught up to me I’d just surrender. This had become a game of tag.

One problem at a time. I still had Killdozer to deal with. Without the front camera, it flailed around trying to find me. The wheels might not move fast, but the raw power behind that scoop could really whip it back and forth.

The scoop slammed to the ground a meter to my left. Pretty good guess, but not good enough. I hopped into the scoop and crouched down. I was taking a gamble here. The scoop had very accurate weight sensors and my mass would surely be detectable. I hoped the controller wasn’t paying enough attention.

The scoop reared up again, and when it did I leapt. Between my leap and the scoop’s upward motion, I went way the hell higher than I’d intended.

“Well, shit,” I said as I reached the top of the arc. I think I was about ten meters off the ground, but I’ll never know for sure. I do know that when I landed on the harvester’s roof I damn near broke my legs.

After a moment of reflection on the wisdom of my plan, I reached over and snipped the remaining antenna. The harvester stopped thrashing instantly.

“Whew.” I’d temporarily disabled all four harvesters. Now to permanently disable them.

I started with the harvester that I’d already sabotaged. I climbed up the side as I had done before and opened the breaker box. I reached into my relay box and pawed at the alarm settings on the clock. I couldn’t press the buttons, of course. The clock was designed for use by human fingers, not ham-fisted EVA gloves.

Okay, if I couldn’t set the alarm time, I’d use a less subtle approach. I disconnected both alligator clips, yanked the relay out from between them, and cut the insulation off their cables. I tied the cables into a crude knot and reconnected the alligator clips to the battery poles.

Then I hauled ass.

By removing the relay, I’d created a new device known as a “wire.” The battery was shorted and was absolutely shitting heat.

I ran full-speed to the nearest boulder and slid behind it. Nothing happened right away. I peeked around the edge. Still nothing.

“Hmm,” I said. “Maybe I should—”

Then the harvester exploded. Like…exploded. Way the hell larger than I expected. Shrapnel flew in all directions. The blast forced the chassis into the ground so hard it bounced up, did a half flip, and landed on its roof.

I thought I was far enough from the explosion but no, not even close. Chunks of twisted metal bashed my boulder while smaller bits of wreckage rained from above.

“Oh, right,” I said. I’d forgotten to account for the other explosive in there: the hydrogen fuel-cell battery. All that hydrogen had met the oxygen at high temperature and they’d had a brief chat.

The rock shielded me from the initial blast, but it was useless against the debris that came down from above. I belly-crawled to one of the other harvesters while tufts of dust erupted around me. Reminder: There’s no air here. If something gets flung into the sky, it comes back down as fast as it was going when it left. It was raining bullets.

Through pure luck, I made it to the harvester and cowered under it for a while. I waited until the storm abated and crawled out to check my handiwork.

The victim harvester was totaled. Hell, you could barely tell it used to be a vehicle. The chassis was a wreck of twisted metal and a good 50 percent of the harvester was now evenly distributed across the collection zone. I checked the time. The whole process had taken ten minutes. Not bad, but I’d have to speed things up for the other three.

First, though, I picked through the wreckage, found a sheet of metal about two meters square, and dragged it to the far side of my Boulder of Protection. I leaned it against the edge to make a rudimentary shelter.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.