“Has it?” White frowned. “Well, keep calm and repopulate, then.”
“Ah. Maybe it hasn't.”
“Good to know.” White pointed ahead. “There's Hobb's Carn, look. I told you we were going in the right direction.”
“You did, sir. Lucky I realised we were running in a straight line.”
“Exactly, sergeant.” White breathed in and out at irregular intervals. He could feel the stitch returning but was determined to circumvent it this time. Besides, it was only a couple of hundred yards further. He could manage that without making a fool of himself, surely? “Let's get our gear packed up and be away with all due haste, eh?”
“Yes, sir.” Peters slowed at the edge of the tree line, stopped and squatted.
“What are you doing? We're in a hurry.”
“Yes, sir, but who's to say there was only one robot?”
“What?” White frowned. “Of course there's only one robot. We've only seen one robot.”
“Have we? Or have we seen two different but identical robots?”
“Oh, don't give all that, sergeant. We can't go along second-guessing ourselves. We'll never get anywhere.” He stepped past Peters but the sergeant grabbed his arm.
“Wait! I see movement.”
White felt a rush of fear. If Peters was right about the second robot, how many more were there? A dozen? A hundred? An army? He peered out between the low branches of a pencil cedar and the edge-of forest wild garlic, just coming into flower. Peters was right. There was movement. It was low to the ground and... golden.
He stood. “You idiot. That's a dog walker.”