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In the Terminator movies, a nigh-unstoppable cyborg travels back in time from the future to the present day to relentlessly hunt down and kill the human protagonists. They primarily manage to evade it by stealing motor vehicles and driving away very quickly.

In the story I am writing, the protagonists are chased by a similar threat (which I'll continue to refer to as a terminator for the ease of understanding), but live in a low-tech, low-magic fantasy universe. I would like the technology level to be as low as possible and as close to historically accurate as possible, but I still need my protagonists to be able to actually stay ahead of their enemy for a significant period of time.

The terminator:

  • Looks like a very physically fit human being.
  • Is superhumanly strong and durable.
  • Does not need to eat or sleep, and it never gets tired. It will keep chasing 24 hours a day.
  • Moves at the speed of a brisk walk, but can and will use any faster travel method if one is available. It will break into a run if it spots its targets, but no sooner than that.
  • Has a baseline understanding of the general location and era. You can assume it knows anything you could look up on Wikipedia, but wouldn't know things like where the local hotspots are, or the identities of anyone not reasonably famous. (It knows its targets though.) It can also speak any language fluently.
  • Can't be reasoned with or bargained with, but can talk to people to gather information.
  • Doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear, but can imitate these emotions.
  • Absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until the protagonists are dead.

In other words, for the purpose of making this question easier to answer, it is basically the T-800 from the first Terminator movie. Because the story is taking place earlier than the information age, in order to maintain suspense and prevent the protagonists from simply hiding instead of running, I'm also giving the terminator an extra ability to "ping" the protagonists once a day to determine what general direction they're in.

The protagonists are normal human beings who are physically fit. Their advantages are:

  • They outnumber the terminator. That means they can do things like sleep in shifts to try to make up for the terminator's lack of a need for sleep. In the movies, some were able to rest while others drove, but that's obviously not possible without cars.
  • They have local and cultural knowledge that any normal person living in the area would have, which the terminator doesn't necessarily have.
  • They are forewarned about the terminator and have a head start of at least a day.
  • They are willing to break the law. If they can't afford something they need, they can steal it. (Although the terminator can also do this.)

This question is not concerned with how they're going to deal with the terminator, but only what the tech level of the world needs to be in order for them to be physically capable of outrunning it for a significant length of time. (At least a week!) Nothing that uses an engine is allowed.

I've already considered horses, but the problem is that if the protagonists can obtain horses, the terminator can also obtain a horse, and ultimately both sets of horses will become tired after a day and need to rest, during which time both groups would be on foot, and the terminator could catch up during the night.

I am okay with writing some mild anachronisms to allow the protagonists to maintain an extended pursuit, or to use a touch of magic to bend the rules a little bit (it's a low-magic setting), but I would like to avoid it as much as possible to maintain at least a moderate sense of realism without too much handwaving.

So what is the lowest tech level needed to evade a tireless terminator for at least a week?

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    $\begingroup$ Can a terminator cross water without a boat-like thing, ie do they 'drown'? Why can't it just be netted and tied up? $\endgroup$ – Draft 85 Feb 5 at 3:27
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    $\begingroup$ This question requires more information, such as the geography of the region across and around which this pursuit will occur. Without such information, we can't give the best estimate. That 'ping' ability could make it impossible to escape short-term. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Feb 5 at 6:34
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, terminator is not that invincible. Its way ahead in melee combat but its not made of adamantium. Unless its made of adamantium in your setting)). A group of skilled and disciplined protagonists could make a trap on it and for example throw a huge rock from high ground. Even if the terminator is not destroyed completely it would be damaged or even paralysed. And then men could finish it constantly hitting its head with another rock. It could take some time but its worth it) So technically a required tech-level to defeat terminator is Stone Age. But of course a WaterMill or a powder ba $\endgroup$ – Vitaly Denisov Feb 5 at 6:58
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    $\begingroup$ So question not sure I've seen... what's the T's weight? because if he's made of metal - the same sized "individual" will weigh considerably more than a human. The reason I bring this up is "they both have horses" only goes so far if the poor horse the T's using has to do 3x the work... so, IMO, a human on a equal horse to one the T has will go further/faster before needing to exchange for a new/fresh horse... $\endgroup$ – WernerCD Feb 5 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to bear in mind is that even if the T-800 gets a compass-reading on the targets every day, it won't know what they are doing. If they enter a major city from the south and get horses, they can leave town heading north at full gallop while the T-800 searches the town until at least the next ping; the T-800 would not know they were on horses or had left town. Just the direction is too little info for the T-800 to reliably counter basic efforts to outrun it. This dynamic would likely play out several times naturally even if the targets don't know the "rules." $\endgroup$ – Tom Feb 5 at 17:15

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Horses and water crossing because of terminator weight

While it is true that the terminator can also get a horse, you can (very) plausably make your cybernetic killing machine substantially heavier than a human being.

That means that even if a strong horse can carry or pull a terminator, the lighter humans will have an edge on horseback. Their mounts will be faster and go longer distances without rest.

Same goes for crossing water. A human can swim across or use a light boat, where a terminator would need something with more buoyancy. (You being the writer can make sure that there are canoes by the river when the terminator cathces up to your protagonists but alas no bridge, raft or sturdier boats)

Sure, the terminators machinery is waterproof and it wont drown. It can simply walk across the bottom. That, however, is considerably slower than paddling or even swimming across the surface. (because of water resistance)

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    $\begingroup$ And in case of larger flows of water with mud at the bottom also EXTREMELY hard to cross, as the machine will get stuck in underwater growths and the DEEP DEEP mud, slip on rocks and be battered by waterflow. Or just areas with unstable terrain like bogs, where the terminator can easily get several meters below the terrain and hopelessly tuck in the terrain. $\endgroup$ – mishan Feb 5 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Human can simply go in a boat to a deeper water and wait. Though terminator can walk on the bottom, there's nothing he can do about a boat up above. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Feb 5 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander: nothing? He can chuck rocks at it (though that'll likely be ineffective underwater), he can shoot a harpoon at it with a crossbow (which he should have anyway, he's not really a threat without it), and considering the OP gave him superhuman strength, he may even be able to swim up and overturn it! $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 5 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but I have to say no on horses. Yes, they can run faster for a short while. But on the long term, humans can travel faster than horses, unless you organize relays in advance and switch to fresh horses. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 5 at 23:29
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz The targets know where they can buy, steal or trade horses though. Or they think they do. So their plan might well be to ride to the next town, then change horses. $\endgroup$ – Davislor Feb 6 at 3:53
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The obvious two ways to move quickly are horses and boats. With the latter sleep and long-term travel are much easier.

The problem for the terminator is finding its targets, once they are out of sensor range. Especially with boats, once the boat is over the horizon, there's no way of tracking it. The terminator would have to have good social skills to find out that the targets got onto a particular boat. If the targets are capable of changing the boat's destination after departure, then the terminator would have no way of finding that out, without massive and time-consuming investigation, again requiring good social skills.

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    $\begingroup$ However, at the same time, I feel there might be able a problem. From the OP: "in order to maintain suspense and prevent the protagonists from simply hiding instead of running, I'm also giving the terminator an extra ability to "ping" the protagonists once a day to determine what general direction they're in." $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 5 at 4:59
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    $\begingroup$ The boats is even more practical. It levels the playing field in speed in both day and night. Shifts make more sense and allow for 'full speed' travelling. The ping will be next to useless as they can just go about anywhere during the day, assuming there's wind. With sweeps they can also move without wind. Problems are that the manifest of the boat can be gotten so the destination is known. If there's enough people, stealing a boat is more practical. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Feb 5 at 9:55
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    $\begingroup$ Stay in the middle of a large lake. Forever out of range, without fear of the dangers of high seas. You only need to worry about sustenance, but then again you can fish and drink water from the lake. $\endgroup$ – Daze Feb 5 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Daze: Forever is an exaggeration. You'd experience health problems within a month. Surviving only on the fish you can catch in a lake will lead to nutritional deficiencies (e.g., Scurvy). $\endgroup$ – Brian Feb 5 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Just become a sailor and spend your life on boats. If he's only always running after you and not waiting for you, it won't ever catch you. $\endgroup$ – Echox Feb 5 at 18:41
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Boats is the obvious answer

If you can make it to a river with boats or the sea with ships, you can make it as one person can sail while the others rest (just like a car)

If you can make it to the sea, you're pretty safe because the terminator is at a major disadvantage at sea because it cannot swim. Sure, the terminator could walk along the bottom of the sea but it would be incredibly slow going and wouldn't help it's biological parts plus ending up in the deep ocean, the crush would even affect a terminator. The terminator also cannot operate a ship by itself so would require human help to sail a ship. The best the terminator can do is try and keep up and wait for you to reach land again.

If the terminator did try and follow you by ship, it can't sneak up on you and it's at risk of ending up overboard. All else fails you set everything on fire and jump overboard and take your chances in the water.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ If the terminator can allow all its internal cavities to fill with water, pressure won't affect him at all. If it has such internal cavities at all. Even with cavities, it's likely pretty sturdy - it's not a submarine but much smaller so the surface-to-volume works in its favor and it's pretty likely that it is stable enough just because it was built to withstand a tomahawk hit. $\endgroup$ – toolforger Feb 6 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ It's eyes are the weak point. It can't fill them with water and the water pressure could easily crack them. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Feb 6 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ depends on what he uses for eyes. "LED eyes" should be unaffected (assuming insulation), organic eyes are probably less affected than other body parts when it comes to high pressure (but I'd say a Terminator has fleshy bits just for camouflage, the actual robot is steel and doesn't really care about pressure - rust may be an issue, obviously) $\endgroup$ – toolforger Feb 6 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ A terminator could row a boat faster, on average, than most historical sailing vessels. So good luck with that sailboat. $\endgroup$ – cms Feb 7 at 16:39
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Paleolithic

You do not need any technology whatsoever to stay ahead of this killing machine. Infact, the lower tech your protagonists are the better. In the movies, the terminator was able to use technology to pinpoint where the protagonist would come to a rest, and then he could use modern technology to get there very quickly, but if you go back to the early stone age, people had no addresses to look up, no permanent homes to track down etc. leaving your terminator with nothing but his daily ping and his feet.

In a place like a forest, swamp, or marsh, your maximum line of sight is only a few dozen feet. So once a day the terminator would be able to walk to some place the protagonists have been... look around, and then... not be able to do much from there. He could try to follow tracks if he is programmed to know how to look for them, but the more primitive your protagonists are, the more likely they are to have fox-like cunning when it comes to confusing any predator that might try to track them down. As long as they spend more time a day walking than they spend resting in 1 spot, the terminator will probably never be able to find them.

Depending on how smart and adaptable your terminator is compared to your protagonists, some terrains may even defeat it out right, or atleast slow it down so much as to make it more or less an non-threat. Wilderness is full of all sorts of features like alluvial mud banks that the terminator could sink head deep into, or foliage so thick that it will perceive it as an impassable barrier or cave systems with vertical sinkholes hundreds of feet deep (for the ultimate pit trap).

But let's say all attempts to contain or destroy it fail, staying ahead of it is still an option. It is common in tribal cultures to sleep 3-4 hours twice a day instead of one 6-8 hours stint; so, this is actually easier than it sounds. As long as you spend 4+ hours a day on the move, you can guarantee it will never catch up to you while you sleep, and as long as you are on the move by the time it follows your ping, it will have a very hard time finding you from there.

Now let's say it does find them... thanks to the plentiful natural environments they still may be able to outrun it. The terminator having the appearance of a large human and the weight of a metal machine would be more restricted in its ability to run through many terrains. They only need to bee line it for the roughest or softest terrain, get a few hundred feet ahead of it and they will be able to lose it quickly after they get out of visual contact.

The reason a terminator may not be able to run faster than human through difficult terrain has to do with a combination of how bipedal kinesiology and intuitive spatial skills work. Bipedal locomotion is inherently unstable in a way that only makes super strength particularly helpful on flat stable terrain. Every step you take has to be taken with a specific amount of force. If you under commit, you fall over, and if you over commit, you fall over. Super strength allows for a powerful sprint over level roads, and to a lesser extent can allow a terminator to force its way through certain obstructions that would slow down a human, but intuitive spatial skills are where the human will likely have the advantage. In a forest, swamp, or marsh, there are a lot of visually deceptive things in the environment. Tripping hazards like raised roots, rocks, and pits can be covered by foliage which could deceive the terminator into under committing or misplacing a step causing it to trip. Humans are very good at learning what to predict what should be behind something based on environmental cues; so, when we see a fern sticking up at a certain angle or next to a certain kind of tree, etc. we learn to guess what that fern is hiding so that we can make good decisions about where and how to step.

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  • $\begingroup$ One thing though, a dense forest might not be the best place to escape it. I saw a video where a tiger went through the wood boards that formed the side of a hut to drag someone out. The biologist reviewing the scene after wards knocks on the side of the hut and says that although it might appear hard and solid to us humans, that wood is not unlike the brush and bramble the tiger normally walks through so it would have no trouble getting through. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 5 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ That's horrifying @DKNguyen, how on Earth are rectangles of wood like brush and brambles? Those can be pushed aside, wooden boards are more secure....aren't they? $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 5 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias Apparently not. I'll see if I can find the video again. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 5 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias I'm having trouble finding the video obviously since I can't remember what I was looking for in the first place when I ran into it. I think it was about poaching and if I recall, the same video showed a renactment about a bunch of villagers in a nearby village surrounding another tiger and beating it to death thinking it was the perpetrating man-eating tiger. But this article refers to breaking through walls and has a picture of a hut wall behind a man in one of the photos. It might actually be the same incident as the video, I am not sure: bbc.com/news/magazine-29987187 $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 5 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias Also, I know I said brush and bramble but that is just my memory. The biologist might have actually said mangroves. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Feb 5 at 23:04
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The easiest way is to go with a big, fast boat : it's fast, always moving, and cannot be well maneuvered by one man, so Terminator will have a harder time overtaking a boat and pursue another one. but in case you don't have a sea at hand, then...

A land-only solution

With the appropriate knowledge, you can actually have the runaways escape the terminator long enough with horses.

In some countries, messenger posts had specific services for employees who need to quickly give a mail from one place to another. These services included the possibility to replace your battered horse with a fresh new one, so that you can make longer runs. If one of the person is a messenger, they will have good contacts and can ask them in exchange of a favor.

Then, your main tool to gain distance is to use your environment knowledge to your advantage1. After all, even if you know the direction you need to take, if you don't know the fastest paths or the safest paths, you will face some troubles. This is especially true when your pursuer only have a clear hint of where you went every 24 hours. Sharp mountains and dense forests are a good sample to slow down and mislead a pursuer, while swamps and large beaches with quicksands such as the ones near the Mont St-Michel can certainly slow down a killing monster if they don't know where the traps lie.

3025 Grande Rue, 50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France, Marco Usan, Wikimedia commons (A view from Mont St-Michel, France. Picture from Wikimedia commons)

It's even more true when you can lay down your own traps : If there is a tax of passage in and out of towns, or a token is needed, Terminator may very well need to face the city guards. If someone knows a battle is going to take place (or trigger one?) between two big factions, making it happen while Terminator is on the way will hold them of for some time, whether by forcing them to skirt around it or to break through it.

Finally, not being able to make shifts on horse is not entirely true : While it's certainly not comfortable nor you are at your fastest, you can always use a carriage, so that one person drives it, while the others are sleeping behind. When most if not everyone has some rest, drop the carriage and everyone are back on horses. Alternatively, if the runaways get to know when pings are sent, they can rest until right before it happens, so that as soon as their position is known, they are in full shape to move on.

Oh and oh! Before I forget, an encyclopedia can give lots of general information, but they lack practical knowledge you get from experience, such as knowing if an animal is in a good state to travel or how to climb them up and down effectively. It can play a big role if Terminator takes the wrong horse or is not able to give them orders!

To answer the question's core

The minimal needed technology is pretty low. You have fast animals, boats, and good terrain knowledge, you should be doing relatively well. It would be exhausting, but doable.


1 This applies to boat escapes too. Unknown reefs can quickly sink a ship, and if you don't know the lighthouse codes -as Terminator wouldn't probably know-, they would navigate with a blind eye among them.

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    $\begingroup$ Horses need rest, too. They're not machines. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Feb 5 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 Then replace them! I used the example of messenger posts, but I guess you could find similar services even if you're not a messenger $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Feb 5 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Messenger posts are a clever idea, but they require a lot of infrastructure that I'm not sure the world would have yet. I think these came significantly later in history. Also, my protagonists are a group, so while one set of horses is relatively easy to come by, having a large amount of horses available at every stop might be unrealistic. I really like your side note about the terminator probably not knowing practical information about horses though! $\endgroup$ – Makst Feb 7 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Makst Don't worry about it ^^. My intents were to gift a basket of bonus ideas you can pick from more than to give the best answer. Regarding the lack of horses, I think it depends. If you're in a Mongolia-like environment, very old tribes would certainly have a good amount of horses you could get with good relationships. Not so much in jungles or in swamps, where one of their main advantage (speed) would disappear. You should also consider using other mounts depending on where your characters live : camels, llamas (for kids only!), and so on... $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Feb 8 at 11:16
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Tech Level: Medieval

There are completely logical (and moreover, plausible) ways to outrun, delay, and even destroy the Terminator in medieval times. Considering the head start, and the fact your Terminator is probably a homunculus-like being, if not a magitech "cyborg," they can lay traps for the Terminator to set off.

So, let's begin!

Outrunning Options:

  1. Boats-As Barry DeCicco and Thorne pointed out, boats are a superior option.

  2. Horses-As Tortliena pointed out, horses can also work quite well.

  3. Dragon-Seriously, even if you're doing low fantasy, chances are there will be a dragon or two. Perhaps the people in your world use them for transportation? If you haven't planned to include dragons, I'd heartily suggest it, as A) flight blows all other options out of the water and B) it makes it possible for you to have an aerial battle where your protagonists and their dragon are fighting against the terminator and its dragon.

  4. Seven-league boots-These fantasy footwear have some great pros: 1, they'll allow your protagonists to run from the terminator, and 2, if they trip, fail, or end in difficult terrain the terminator may catch up. You may have to hand-wave this (the same guy who warns them could give them the boots, for example) but this would be a perfectly good way for your protagonists to evade the terminator without losing the feeling that one misstep could end them.

Why? Well, speaking from my experience in cross-country, running ahead of someone isn't all that difficult; it's staying ahead that's difficult.

Now for the good stuff: Delaying the Terminator

  1. Intentional Rabbitholes Stepping in a rabbit hole can twist your ankle or get you stuck; since the terminator is essentially human in terms of frame and physiology, rabbit holes should work on it. In fact, even superhuman strength and durability may not save it; those don't necessarily make it harder for the terminator to sprain itself now do they?

  2. Pit Trap A good 'ol pit trap with nice, sheer walls should give your terminator a very bad day. Even with superstrength, the terminator will have quite a time trying to dig or punch its way out. It won't hold it forever, but it will buy them time.

  3. Framing You mentioned the protagonists may steal what they need; framing the terminators for multiple thefts will get it held up by law enforcement, which will buy them time.

  4. Decoys If the protagonists are like Emmet from The Lego Movie, typical-looking average Joes, the terminator can easily mistake other people for them. This would not only be hilarious but would really confuse the terminator. Additionally, by the time it finds the first set of decoys, there might be even more sets of decoys running around!

  5. Bounty If the protagonists put a bounty on the terminator's head, then it'll have to deal with bounty hunters. This is a strategically smart move, except for the fact that it can blow up on them (AKA if the terminator pays the bounty hunters more to aid it).

  6. Davy Jones Taking a page out of Davy Jone's (the real Davy Jone's) playbook, they could arrange for the terminator to get drunk, then have someone take them to a captain short a few sailors. When the terminator wakes up, it'll be in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight. This will be difficult to do, but oh-so-very satifisying; unless of course the terminator pulls a Wesley and becomes a feared pirate captain.

  7. Trickery If the terminator does catch up, trick it! It's intelligent enough to understand people, and you don't need to feel pity, fear, or remorse to be tricked! Perhaps they could claim they are also terminators and that this whole hunt was just a test to prove the terminator's skills and worth, or that they are actually the terminators master and were testing its ability. (Taravingian did the latter to Szeth, an assassin, in The Way of Kings.) Who knows, they may even be able to talk their way out of this mess! (Plot twist....)

  8. Charm You never said the terminator would be immune to things like the mesmer in Artemis Fowl or a siren's song, so perhaps that could delay it, akin to how Scrat found a relationship and forget all about his acorn in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Alternatively, maybe a female character can charm the terminator into reconsidering its mission (even more of a plot twist....)

Destroying the Terminator

  1. Mulan In the original Mulan, the heroine (Mulan) shot a rocket into the side of a snowy mountain, triggering an avalanche. Similar tactics could delay the terminator (it's about as tough as the Huns, and they "popped out of the snow like daisies!" afterward) or even destroy it; superhuman durability can't save you from a rockslide, right?

  2. Dragon This also works as a delaying tactic; simply trick the terminator in awaking or otherwise ticking off a dragon and watch as all your problems burn away (or see the terminator become a dragonslayer....)

  3. Bigger Fish Find a bigger, scarier monster, lure the terminator to it, and let them duke it out. Ideally, the terminator will be swallowed and have to get its way out of a rather problematic situation or be digested.

  4. Sea/sky drop This will take some doing, but the terminator clearly isn't immune to drowning, sinking, or falling.

  5. Super-charm This would require your protagonists to do the impossible and befriend the assassin (AKA terminator) sent to kill them, but hey! It happened in the Dragon Prince, and logically, if this thing can be reasoned with, or if there's a reason it's hunting them, it's doable!

There, I hope this helps!

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    $\begingroup$ (7) and (8) delay tactics may goes against the rule that Terminator "can't be reasoned with or bargained with,". They may very well be in "Exterminate! EX-TER-MI-NA-TE!" mode when they catch a glimpse on the target :p. $\endgroup$ – Tortliena Feb 6 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ Murder holes. It's got stupid strength but not that of anvils. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Feb 6 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena, if the terminator can understand human speech, then it can be tricked. For example, if someone pretends to cooperate with its mission, it'll likely go right along with absolutely no clue it's being tricked. In other words, the "can't be reasoned with" rule will have logical exceptions. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Feb 7 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ You're giving me lots of good ideas! I would like to minimize magic use though, as while magic exists in a limited capacity, the protagonists do not necessarily have access to very much of it at all. Something like seven league boots and super charm is a bit high on the power level. $\endgroup$ – Makst Feb 7 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ "Does not need to eat or sleep, and it never gets tired. It will keep chasing 24 hours a day." I'm dubious regarding the ability to get it drunk. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 7 at 20:20
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A ping detector

I can walk at 4km/hr, but I'm not as fit as a T-800 so lets call it 5. 24 * 5 = 120km/day. Lets assume you can walk for 16hrs at 4km/hr and need 8 hours of rest, so you're moving 64km/day.

The only tech you need is the ability to detect when the T-800 is pinging you. This doesn't even need magic or tech if the thing is arriving at known position and time and you know its ping interval, however the ability to detect when you have been "pung", is enough to evade the T-800 for over a week.

Because he moves further than you do, by changing course, you can make him overshoot.

  • Every 24 hours the T-800 gets your direction and starts heading towards you.
  • Travel 64km on your first day. Stop and rest while you wait for the ping.
  • while waiting, leave fake tracks heading in your original travel direction.
  • As soon as the ping occurs, travel perpendicular to your original direction.
  • The T-800 walks towards the ping. After 120km, 24hrs has passed, and it gets a second ping.
  • By which time you've travelled 64km perpendicular to him.
  • His second ping returns you at his 4 oclock, so he turns. You're 85km away from him (56km and 64km right angled triangle hypotenuse)
  • When his second ping comes, turn right 90 degrees again and walk 64km in 16 hours, and then sleep for 8. He will walk 120km, and by the time he gets his next ping; He'll be 106km away.
  • Next ping he'll be 124km away.
  • Next ping he'll be 68km away.
  • Next ping he'll be 93km away.
  • So long as he doesn't get within line of site, you can keep this up indefinitely.
  • What you're doing is really hard to figure out if you only have daily pings directions, but just to be certain, start picking random directions (that aren't towards him).
  • You'll need to use your precise knowledge of the area to plot where he'll be.
    • Since he's a robot, you can guarantee he'll make the optimal move, which will be to head towards you at maximum speed.
    • Yeah it could eventually all fall over, especially if he starts guessing what direction you'll head that day, but you only need to survive 7 ping cycles.
  • Only tech needed is a "ping detector"

How to outrun something moving twice as fast as you if the only tech you have is knowing when they'll get a bearing on your direction:
enter image description here


Here's a few other ideas:

You need a week as per the question, so you need to get 840km in a week using as low a tech as possible. You have a 1 day head start, so you need to travel 840km in 8 days. 105km/day.

If you just start walking 4km/hr, 16hrs per day, the T-800 will catch up with you just after day 2. If you both walk, you at 4km/hr for 16hrs a day, him 5km/hr for 24hrs, you will of travelled 512km vs his 840km. So, you really only need to give yourself a 328km advantage over 8 days.

That's 45km/hr per night. That's all you need.

Boats have already been mentioned. So has swapping horses.

  • Stowaway on a random cart / boat / etc Or steal a horse / boat.
    • If you're not seen, interrogating wont get the T-800 anywhere.
    • It's gotta guess or wait for the ping.
    • No extra tech required.
  • Cross a bridge and destroy it as you cross.
    • Yeah it wont make any friends, and the terminator will figure out another route, but if it's a 200km detour to the next bridge do this twice and your done.
    • No extra tech required.
  • Hot air balloon.
    • This isn't a huge tech leap, and with good winds you can travel a few hundred km. That's all you need.
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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, 64km/day is impossible to maintain on long term. Or even achieve just for 2-3 days unless you're a world-class athlete $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 5 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ If you know when the ping is, place a slowdown trap at your position at the time of the ping. $\endgroup$ – JoshDM Feb 6 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer (+1). sing/sang/sung, ring/rang/rung, ping/pinged/pinged... but pung will do. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear03020704 Feb 7 at 7:45
  • $\begingroup$ This is a really smart answer! My protagonists do not learn about the ping until it's dramatically appropriate though. :) $\endgroup$ – Makst Feb 7 at 17:46
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I would suggest a horse drawn vehicle such as a wagon or carriage. A water based craft does answer the question as asked, however if you want to maintain the suspense, the protagonists need to be repeatedly in danger of being caught. A long boat chase makes it hard to achieve that. A carriage allows for taking turns for rest, but will still require stops to get food water, allowing the terminator to close in.

If it was me, I'd have the terminator fail to maintain horse based transport either because the horse becomes injured or a run in with law enforcement or he just drives it too hard... so that he ends up on foot again. That way, for part of the pursuit he can be gradually catching up with the protagonists whilst they are stopped in a hare and tortoise kind of way. For variety, you could also introduce different transports for the terminator, some of which he may not handle too well (such as being too heavy for riding a horse that others have already mentioned).

I guess we're looking at fairly ancient tech to achieve this - horse drawn vehicles such as chariots have been around for 1000s of years.

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    $\begingroup$ Wait... what am I saying - who knows if the OP isn't a robot from the future wanting to know how many generations back it needs to travel in time to guarantee being able to catch the ancestor of it's enemy ;-) $\endgroup$ – Raffles Feb 6 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ I really like the hare and tortoise analogy here. This is really clever and thinks a lot about the story structure. Unfortunately, a horse-drawn carriage is just about the same speed as a pedestrian travelling at a brisk walk, with the only advantage being that horses get tired slower and can carry more. A terminator tirelessly walking 24 hours would catch up to a horse-drawn carriage fairly quickly, since there isn't much of a speed advantage for the horses to widen the gap. $\endgroup$ – Makst Feb 7 at 19:06
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This is not really an answer to your question per se, as this was abundantly provided before. Any tech level is sufficient to outrun the Terminator.

But let's build on that - I would argue that if we talk about an equivalent to the T-800, you do not need to outrun the Terminator in the first place! The argument hinges on my impression that lower tech level makes the Terminator actually less of a threat. The Terminator is optimised for firearms level tech:

  1. Firearms provide him with convenient means to eliminate relatively large group of targets at a distance within a short time frame.

  2. Firearms are the go-to weapon of modern civilisation (for exactly that reason) - nobody in their right mind would fight a deadly threat without firearms if they can choose so. But as it happens, the Terminator is very resilient against firearms: it has a durable endoskeleton covered by soft tissue further dampening the impact.

In pre-gunpowder civilisations, the Terminator is still very difficult to destroy (probably even moreso than today), however he is also far less impressive as his action radius is limited severely to close combat or primitive range weapons (spears, bow & arrows), which can be deflected with relative ease (far easier, in fact, than a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range), making him far less dangerous to be in the vicinity of.

As such, a coordinated and disciplined group of individuals could take him out in a number of ways. E.g.:

  1. Lure him under a cliff and drop a large number of heavy stones or tree logs on him.
  2. Use couple of horse riders to trap him with ropes and drag him over an edge of a high cliff.
  3. Lure him over a pit, pour tar inside and burn him. Perhaps heavy stoning could be also sufficient (but careful that he does not toss the stones back at ye!).
  4. Drop him into a well and bury him. Sure, he may get out eventually (if the corrosion does not get him or the battery doesn't run out) but by that time the target may be long dead because of plague, dysenteria, poisoning by fumes due to being burned at stake for spewing nonsense about time travelling robots, etc. ergo: mission accomplished > deactivate > self-destruct!
  5. Drown him in a swamp.

Now if we are talking T-1000, this would be very likely far more complicated because he is much better optimised for close combat, so there I would probably just opt for running away.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think the "tupperware age" is required for stopping T-1000 : Freeze it with liquid nitrogen and break it into small pieces (like done in T2 movie) Put all the frozen pieces of metal individually in as many small tupperwares as required. $\endgroup$ – qq jkztd Feb 6 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @qqjkztd I don't know - I feel like even a small piece of T-1000 has enough strength to break out of a tupperware container. You might slow it down, but that wouldn't stop it. (Of course the harder part is acquiring liquid nitrogen.) You might have better luck with explosives - even the primitive bombs they had in medieval times might be enough if you get them close enough. Failing that, molten metal at a blacksmith's forge is a possibility, though much harder to get in sufficient quantities back then... $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Feb 9 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman Agreed - liquid nitrogen is not exactly tupperware level technology, then the collection would be probably very dangerous and container unreliable. T-1000 would probably be far more difficult to slow down. A bog, suspended bridge or a volcano would probably be safest. $\endgroup$ – Eleshar Feb 9 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @DarrelHoffman tupperware is a joke, yet small metal or glass containers could do the job, since there is no evidence that (say 50ml of T-1000 liquid metal) can morph into something useful. All we see in the movie is small quatities of liquid metal barely able to move on the floor (Hg like) $\endgroup$ – qq jkztd Feb 9 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Eleshar ability to liquefy nitrogen came far prior to tupperware era $\endgroup$ – qq jkztd Feb 9 at 17:16
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And yet another terrain-based approach: Very deep snow.

Humans can wear snowshoes. The terminator could steal a pair but snowshoes have weight ratings, no showshoes will exist remotely at the terminator's weight. Thus the terminator is going to post-hole really badly and if the snow is deep enough walking becomes impossible. I suspect the "ideal" means of locomotion would be something like swimming but it would be slow.

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Minimum tech level: Stone Age. All you need is a raft and a river.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, the hobbits used a raft to great effect in escaping the Ringwraiths at Buckleberry Ferry. Their pursuer was basically a medieval Terminator on a good horse, and it was effectively stuck on the riverbank while the protagonists got a chance to catch their breath and keep moving.

Rafts and rivers should be attainable in many scenarios. Are your protagonists in a desert, tundra, or any other sort of environment where trees are scarce? If they are, then this idea won’t work out. But if there are trees and twine, it should be plausible.

Rivers should be plausible in terrain that includes trees. It is common for human settlements to be built near a river, especially in pre-industrial times when fresh water sources were difficult to arrange. It sounds like your protagonists don’t much care where they’re going, so long as it away from their pursuer.

A raft lets your protagonists keep moving while some get rest. This lets you keep the element of danger, as they aren’t so far out to sea that they are effectively unreachable. There could be rocks, or rapids, or all manner of problems. It isn’t a perfect solution for your protagonists, but it should be plausible, so long as trees and rivers are common in the area.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Terminator can walk underwater. It's slow, but remember that the Terminator is relentless; while you're sleeping or eating, it's still moving. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 7 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ This is true, the Terminator can keep moving underwater. It is relentless. The river will also keep moving and is also relentless. So long as the river is flowing, the protagonists will keep moving. A raft is not a magic solution to all the protagonists’ problems. It is a low tech solution that allows a group of people to keep moving consistently for days at a time, theoretically. That’s all it is. The protagonists are still in deep trouble. $\endgroup$ – Snapdragon Feb 8 at 1:55
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From a storytelling perspective, using several different strategies for evading the terminator is more dramatic and interesting; so I would use a bunch of these ideas.

The characters do not learn of the pinging until appropriate. Until they do they will be reactionary hence evasion. But when They know about the ping they can use that knowledge to their advantage by sending the terminator wherever like a sheep dog.

I know it’s off topic of the question, but there is equal drama in being the hunted and the hunter. Both parts of the story give the opportunity for clever solutions derived from the environment and human thinking. The best solution is not always the most perfect or logical solution. Robots always take the most logical solution.

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Another possible means of evasion that doesn't require any tech:

I'm thinking of a nearby mountain. It has a notorious scree slope that must be climbed. The terminator is much heavier than a human, it's not getting up that slope without clearing all the scree. Simply sit at the top of the scree and watch it keep sliding back down with every step. (The scree is bad enough that humans expect to end up on their ass a few times.)

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    $\begingroup$ While I quite like this notion, the terminator has several major advantages over the human in this scenario. While it might not be able to climb up, the human is trapped. there's nowhere to go and probably no food or supplies up there. The Terminator doesn't need to eat, or sleep. It can stand at the bottom of the scree-slope indefinitely, staring with glowing red eyes at the human until they starve to death or try to make a break for it, at which point the siege is over and the human needs to find another solution. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Feb 7 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan The scenario was evade for a week, it didn't say forever. There certainly is no food up there, if it's winter there's plenty of water (albeit in solid form), otherwise you have to bring that, also. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Feb 7 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ Can't argue with that, if you just want a week, hiding up a scree-slope with a rucksack of food and water would probably do it. But the question says "at least" a week, so it's likely the terminator will just keep waiting. The scenario doesn't have a hard end at 7 days. As a sustainable solution, it's not going to work, traps you, provides almost no useful options. The only hope is that the terminator runs out of battery-life while waiting (note that the T-800 has a 100 year nuclear battery. Good luck) $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Feb 7 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan You're not trapped--with fairly low tech you could descend the other side with ropes. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Feb 7 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ This assumes that the Terminator is brainless. A bit of thought on its part would find a solution. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Feb 8 at 7:30
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If the Terminator has any kind of brains at all, and knowledge of future technology, it may very well be impossible to escape it if it has that 'ping' ability.

Consider this scenario: the target has a few days head start. The Terminator builds a hang glider big enough to support it in the air and catch a thermal... even if that takes days. Better still from its perspective, it builds a pedal propeller, since it has a much higher sustained power output than a human. After that, it finds a launching place, pings its target, and flies toward its target.

Even if the target is weeks ahead using methods of transport available in most eras, a Terminator-powered pedal glider will soon catch up.

So... the tech level would need to be the age of steam at a minimum, so that the target can take a ride on steam trains and steam ships which can travel at least as fast as the flying Terminator.

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One other way to delay Mr T:

A rope bridge

Since he has double weight of any human, a rope bridge spanning a nice, deep, rocky canyon can potentially spell doom for the T. How to use it:

If you see the T coming, cross the bridge, wait for him to reach the middle of the bridge, then cut it. If the T runs around and comes at you from the other side, cross the bridge, then cut it again when T is at the middle. Some spike trap or sharp rocks at the bottom will do some nice extra damage.

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