A Circus of Hells by Poul Anderson

By Poul Anderson

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The sight jogged at Flandry's memory. An idea stirred in him but vanished before he could seize it. It could wait; readiness for another assault could not. " Flandry's mind sprang. He smacked fist into palm. "By Jumbo, I think you're right! —Yes. The types of, uh, wild robot we've seen, and the ambulance and such, they're recognized as harmless and left alone. " "Not all the squares are occupied," she said dubiously. He shrugged. "Maybe a lot of sentries are under repair at present. ' Excitement waxed in him.

Temperature could not be less than 80 Celsius—might well be higher—20 degrees below the Terran-pressure boiling point of water. A furnace wind roared dully across the ferrocrete, which wavered in his seared gaze. He was instantly covered, permeated, not with honest sweat but with the sliminess that comes when humidity reaches an ultimate. Breathing was like drowning. Noises came loud to his ears through that dense air: wind, voices, clatter of machines. Odors borne from the jungle were pungent and musky, with traces of sulfurous reek.

Some looked unhurt aside from minor scratches and dents. Probably their accumulators were about drained. In the end, he could explain to her: "I always figured those which survived the battles would get recharge and repair in this area. Um-m-m…it can't well serve all Wayland…I daresay the critters never wander extremely far from it…and we did spot construction work, the setup's being steadily expanded, probably new centers are planned…Anyhow, this place is crucial. Elsewhere, they're programmed to attack anything that moves and isn't like their own particular breed.

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