A book about a robot chasing a man. After a long chase the man is in poor condition and lost a lot of weight. The robot finally catches him, weighs him then lets him go because he is under weight.


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This is almost definitely the short story "The Ruum" by Arthur Porges, first published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1953.

The titular ruum is an alien automated collection device accidentally left behind:

Excellency,” he said uneasily, “I regret to inform you that because of a technician’s carelessness, a Type H-p Ruum has been left behind on the third planet, together with anything it may have collected.”

The Commander’s triangular eyes hooded momentarily, but when he spoke his voice was level.

“How was the ruum set?”

“For a maximum radius of 30 miles, and 160 pounds plus or minus fifteen.”

Jim Irwin, a prospector searching for uranium, discovers the collection first:

It was like some enterprising giant’s outdoor butcher shop: a great assortment of animal bodies, neatly lined up in a triple row that extended almost as far as the eye could see. And what animals! To be sure, those nearest him were ordinary deer, bear, cougars, and mountain sheep — one of each, apparently — but down the line were strange, uncouth, half-formed, hairy beasts; and beyond them a nightmare conglomeration of reptiles. One of the latter, at the extreme end of the remarkable display, he recognized at once. There had been a much larger specimen fabricated about an incomplete skeleton, of course, in the museum at home.

No doubt about it—it was a small stegosaur, no bigger than a pony!

Then he is spotted by the ruum and chased, climbs a cliff, shoots it, drops rocks on it, but the ruum is indestructible and won't stop. It even survives an attack from a grizzly and an explosion of TNT.

Jim is finally done:

The ruum was a foot away now, and Jim closed his eyes. He felt cool, metallic fingers touch, grip, lift. His unresisting body was raised several inches, and juggled oddly. Shuddering, he waited for the terrible syringe with its green liquid, seeing the yellow, shrunken face of a lizard with one eyelid a-tremble.

Then, dispassionately, without either roughness or solicitude, the ruum put him back on the ground. When he opened his eyes, some seconds later, the sphere was rolling away. Watching it go, he sobbed dryly.

It notes earlier in the story that before meeting the ruum, Jim weighed exactly 149 pounds; when he is finally rescued, his partner notes it looks like he lost 10 pounds:

He glanced sideways at Jim Irwin’s haggard face. “That night’s run cost you plenty. I figure you lost over ten pounds.”

  • Thank you very much. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 2:24

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