"Oy my God noooo--" someone screamed.
"It's coming this way!" screamed Neil.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God!" I squealed. We were running. The sidewalk was vibrating with the thing's footsteps.
The store window next to us shattered, exploding inward. The mannequins evaporated instantly into clouds of dust.
"AAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" It was me, screaming like a nine year-old girl in a screaming contest.
"Down this way!" Neil yanked me by the sweater into a tight alley. There was a dumpster and a homeless man lying between two sheets of carboard.
"What the hell is that?!" yelled the homeless man, holding his hands over his ears. A cloud of coarse brick dust suddenly filled the entrance to the alley.
"Big, robot, thing!" I yelled back between pants.
"Run!" added Neil.
The homeless man got up and opened the dumpster and climbed in. We ran past to the other end of the alley.
"I think I've seen this movie before!" I yelled.
"Dammit, focus!" screamed Neil. He looked cautiously out into the next street. "Man, these buildings just aren't tall enough!"
Something large and metallic got lodged in the alley entrance behind us, blocking the sunlight.
"Let's go!" said Neil, dragging me again by the sweater. I stumbled along. We ran across the road dodging cars and other running people. I looked back over and up. The head of the robot was swiveling, locking onto anything that moved. It's graspers were pushing against the buildings. Every few seconds the lasers would cycle through, power up, and vaporize an area. You couldn't see much of it in the visible spectrum, but you sure could see the effects.
When we got to the other side, Neil shoved me through a door. We were in a department store. Neil dragged me through the perfume section and towards the escalators. He finally let go of me and ran up the escalator three steps at a time. I was content with two. Neil skidded around to the next escalator and ran up that one too.
"Hurry up!" he said.
"I have bad knees!" I said.
"I don't care!" he said. I ran up two at a time. When I got to the top, Neil was already halfway up the next set. "How big is this damn place?!"
"Last one!" he said. "Come on!"
"Yeah...yeah," I said, out of breath. I made it to the top. We were on a level where miscellaneous merchandise was sold. Neil grabbed me by the sweater again and pulled me through a section of camouflage parkas. "Who on Earth would by those in this climate?" I said to myself.
Then he deposited me in front of a glass display case. There were a variety of outdoorsy knives under the glass. Neil leapt over the counter and immediately punched a vertical display case.
"Oh my God, you're going to hurt yourself!" I said. He retrieved a pair of rifles, each outfitted with a scope. He tossed one of the rifles in my direction, but I instinctively withdrew and it clattered on the glass case.
"Nice catch," he said. He smashed another case with the butt of his rifle and retrieved what looked like appropriate ammunition.
"I hope that's the right stuff!" I said. Neil struggled a bit, but finally figured out how to open the gun. He shoved in a bullet.
"Seems to fit," he said. He tossed me a handful, then filled his rifle.
"These things misfire you know," I said as I loaded my rifle.
"There are worse ways to die," said Neil. "Come'on." He scooped up a couple of ammunition boxes, leapt over the counter again, and dragged me towards the far corner of the store where there was a green exit sign. We went through the door and out onto landing. There were stairs going down and stairs going up. I really wanted to take the stairs going down. Neil pulled up. At the top of the staircase, he hesitated. Through the door we listened to the muffled sounds of the robot's lasers incinerating things. Neil pushed the door open, crouched down, and pulled me out onto the gravel roof. Thankfully the roof had a short wall around it. We couldn't see the robot, so presumably it couldn't see us. We crawled to the side where all the noise was coming from.
"We might only have one chance at this," said Neil. "You need to go first."
"I've never shot an actually gun before," I said.
"You're the best in the world at Sniperville," he said. It was true. I had won the world championship three years in a row. The prize money was paying my way through college rather cushily. Now I wished I'd never seen a video game.
"Yeah...I'm not entirely sure that translates to a real world skill," I said.
"You've got to. People are depending on you."
"If I miss, it will hear the sound and turn on us. We'll be dust!" I said, distraught. "Why can't we wait until it just runs out of power?"
"For one, hundreds, if not thousands of people will die. Secondly, it's powered with a nuclear reactor. It'll keep going for days. You've got to take it out!" He looked at me pleadingly. I looked back at him, totally unconvinced. My palms were absolutely swampy with sweat. "Look, I'll be right here with you. If we die, we die together."
"That's not very comforting," I said. I sighed deeply. "Why the hell did you have to build this thing anyway? What could it ever be useful for?"
"Defense contract. Had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Can't talk about it," said Neil. He peeked up over the edge of the wall. "It's moving back this way."
"Okay! All right. Geez," I said. I rubbed my hands on my dusty jeans. I took the safety off the rifle. I slowly brought up the barrel and rested it on the wall. I looked through the scope and found the robot's head. I lined the crosshairs up with power cables that fed up to the lasers.
"Don't aim for the body. That's where the reactor is,"
"Not gonna," I said.
"It'd be like a dirty bomb..." Neil added.
I took in a breath, then exhaled. I pulled the trigger. There was a loud crack and the rifle slammed against my shoulder. I was knocked from the scope so I couldn't see if I hit it. Neil looked through his scope.
"You got!" he yelled. "You got it! Damn it, you really did it!"
I looked through the scope. The power cable was severed and sparking. The laser looked dead, but the head swiveled in our direction. The robot started moving towards us.
"Oh no," I said.
"Keep shooting the head," said Neil. We both started shooting. The bullets glanced off the robot's armor. Finally I made contact with one of it's cameras. Neil got the other. The head spun this way and that wildly.
"There's a gyroscope and accelerometer just behind the eyes," said Neil, "so keep shooting there."
The robot starting climbing onto the building between our road and its. It's graspers plunged through brick and cement like it was gelatin. It fell into the building, but was strong enough to...wade through it. It burst through the other side in a shower of brick fragments. We keep shooting.
Finally it stopped in the middle of the street, right next to us. It was frozen for a good minute before we stopped shooting.
"Is it dead?" I asked.
"I dunno," said Neil. "It has a hibernation mode if something goes drastically wrong."
"Is there anyway to tell?"
"Yeah. Yeah there is." Neil reached into his pocket and took out his phone. He tapped a code to unlock it. He glanced at me, then put his other hand around the phone, shielding it.
"Let me guess, the NDA," I said.
"Unh-huh," grunted Neil, busy tapping. "It's got wifi, I can tell you that. But you can't tell anybody."
"I really don't think that's going to apply anymore," I said.
"You'd be surprised," said Neil. "Ah ha! Yeah."
"So? What's the verdict."
"Yeah, it's dead. I'm pretty sure."
"So that's it then? Just wait for the authorities and then..."
"Yup," said Neil. He leaned back against the wall, resting the butt of the rifle next to his shoe. I soaked in the silence.