Stepping through the low shrubbery at the edge of the site, he looked across the open area to the two temporary structures, the camp headquarters where the power supplies and the computer were; and the sleeping quarters. Beyond, nose high, stood the silver scout ship that had brought the advance exploratory party of scientists and technicians to Waiamea three days before. Except for a few of the killer robots rolling slowly around the camp site on their quiet treads, there was no one about.
"So, they've finally got those things working." Alan smiled slightly. "Guess that means I owe Pete a bourbon-and-soda for sure. Anybody who can build a robot that hunts by homing in on animals' mind impulses ..." He stepped forward just as a roar of blue flame dissolved the branches of a tree, barely above his head.
Without pausing to think, Alan leaped back, and fell sprawling over a bush just as one of the robots rolled silently up from the right, lowering its blaster barrel to aim directly at his head. Alan froze. "My God, Pete built those things wrong!"
Suddenly a screeching whirlwind of claws and teeth hurled itself from the smoldering branches and crashed against the robot, clawing insanely at the antenna and blaster barrel. With an awkward jerk the robot swung around and fired its blaster, completely dissolving the lower half of the cat creature which had clung across the barrel. But the back pressure of the cat's body overloaded the discharge circuits. The robot started to shake, then clicked sharply as an overload relay snapped and shorted the blaster cells. The killer turned and rolled back towards the camp, leaving Alan alone.
Shakily, Alan crawled a few feet back into the undergrowth where he could lie and watch the camp, but not himself be seen. Though visibility didn't make any difference to the robots, he felt safer, somehow, hidden. He knew now what the shooting sounds had been and why there hadn't been anyone around the camp site. A charred blob lying in the grass of the clearing confirmed his hypothesis. His stomach felt sick.
"I suppose," he muttered to himself, "that Pete assembled these robots in a batch and then activated them all at once, probably never living to realize that they're tuned to pick up human brain waves, too. Damn! Damn!" His eyes blurred and he slammed his fist into the soft earth.
When he raised his eyes again the jungle was perceptibly darker. Stealthy rustlings in the shadows grew louder with the setting sun. Branches snapped unaccountably in the trees overhead and every now and then leaves or a twig fell softly to the ground, close to where he lay. Reaching into his jacket, Alan fingered his pocket blaster. He pulled it out and held it in his right hand. "This pop gun wouldn't even singe a robot, but it just might stop one of those pumas."
They said the blast with your name on it would find you anywhere. This looked like Alan's blast.
Slowly Alan looked around, sizing up his situation. Behind him the dark jungle rustled forbiddingly. He shuddered. "Not a very healthy spot to spend the night. On the other hand, I certainly can't get to the camp with a pack of mind-activated mechanical killers running around. If I can just hold out until morning, when the big ship arrives ... The big ship! Good Lord, Peggy!" He turned white; oily sweat punctuated his forehead. Peggy, arriving tomorrow with the other colonists, the wives and kids! The metal killers, tuned to blast any living flesh, would murder them the instant they stepped from the ship!