Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 7

“BLADES!” The girls scream as they charge towards the ladders.

They catch a glimpse of a long tail before it disappears out of sight.

“What do we do?” Blue asks, stunned.

“Go get him!”

Together, the two girls sprint down the stairs, their feet ringing. Ahead of them, the howl of a creature grows fainter. The girls slide to halt on the next floor down. Three halls lead in different directions. One to the left. Another to the right. The last hall lies in front of them.

“Which way?”

“Follow the blood.” Sparky points to the floor.

Drops of blood lead off to the left. Without another word, they start running down the hall.

“Where did that thing come from?” Sparky wheezes out, “I thought they were trapped.”

“Not a clue. Might have gotten out before the security measures.”

“Great. I thought we had put them all behind us.”

They slide to a stop again at another intersection. The trail of blood they have been following is joined by several more from different halls. The girls slow to a stop and glance at each other.

“Maybe they are eating each other.”

“What is the likelihood of that?”

“Very low.”

Carefully, the two girls walk forward. Their energy crackles along their forearms and lower legs, ready for a sudden attack. The further they walk down, the thicker the blood trails become. Eventually, it becomes impossible for them to avoid the blood. Their feet stick to the floor. The only upside is the trail of footprints left in the sticky blood.

“Can you hear anything?” Blue whispers quietly.

“No.”

Blue winces suddenly as she puts a hand to her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“A headache. I was remembering a nightmare.” Blue takes a deep breath and slowly exhales, “I was a kid running down a hall and then a river of blood swept me away.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll be alright. Come on.” Blue slowly moves forward, “I don’t hear anything right now.”

“Great. What is the chances that is just the one?”

“Not likely.” Blue leans towards the floor, “Looks like another set of tracks here. Smaller than the one that took Blades.”

“Great. Just great.” Sparky starts at a metallic clang.

“Do we keep going?”

“What choice do we have?”

Slowly they walk forward into the hall. The well-lit hall is a sharp contrast with the blood-streaked floors. Here and there are streaked handprints. Without a word, the two girls move cautiously forward. They round a corner and freeze.

A pair of giant lizard creatures lies on the ground. They are twenty feet long but with a narrow, lean build. Protruding from their jaws are curved teeth. Long black claws decorate the end of their limbs. Their hide is dark green along their backs but white along their underbellies.

“Look at the size of them.” Blue whispers.

“Think you can take one of them out?”

“Overcharge?”

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

“What if there is more than one?”

Blue smiles, “Do you know how to make a pulse bomb?”

“A what?”

“Nevermind. Just get ready to hit them if it doesn’t take them out. Or if any of their friends come to check in on them.”

“Got it.”

Blue takes a deep breath and steps out. Energy pulses between her hand. A white-blue stone forms and crackles with energy. The sounds of the crackling lightning cause both beasts to wake. With a grunt, Blue tosses the white stone between them. The lizard creatures rise to their feet as the stone explodes. The force of the blast knocks both creatures into the hall. The power released scorches the hall, burns away the paint, and tears a chunk of flesh out of the two lizard creatures.

As the stench of burned flesh fills the air, another lizard creature leaps forward around the corner.

Sparky steps forward and throws a fist forward.

The orange energy rips through the air and hits the lizard on its head. The animal curls up as if it hit a wall. With a roar, the creature writhes in pain as the energy consume its head. A moment later, the creature flops onto its side. The flesh on its head burned away.

Howls fill the air.

“Can you use quick speed?”

“That I can do.”

Energy crackles around both girls. Their legs glow as they leap forward down the hall. Moving down the hall quickly, they glance back and forth. The side doors are jammed open. Unlike previous rooms, these have been gutted. What few belongs are arranged in circle-like nests. Here and there are creatures curled up.

“Look like they’re moving in.”

“Great. Wait.” Blue yells.

They slide to a stop at an intersection. Carefully they look about. Then they hear Blades yelling and fighting down the right-side hall.

“I go first.” Blue says, “You come a few seconds behind me.”

“Right.”

With a flash of energy, Blue moves down the hall. Lighting crackles in her wake. The energy casts dark blue light as she speeds down the hall.

“One thousand one.” Sparky whispers to herself, “One thousand two. One thousand three.”

She allows energy to sweep through her body. The lightning dances along the length of her body. Moving quickly, she sweeps through a blood-stained hall. In what was a large cafeteria-area, she finds Blue in the middle of a fight.

A dozen of the lizard creatures are charging her. Blades is beside her, firing spikes as quickly as he can make them. His left leg is covered in blood and he is leaning against the wall.

But at the opposite end, filling the room with angry bellows is a giant lizard. Nearly five times as large as the ones they have seen, it crouches over a clutch of eggs. Its tail forms a protective barrier between them and Blades’ spikes.

Letting the energy flow and form into white-orange swords, Sparky charges into the mix.

The giant lizard is immediately aware. With a howl, the entire pack of lizards turn their attack away from Blades and Blue and begin charging towards Sparky. Out of the corner of her eye, Sparky sees Blue grab ahold of Blades. Using her enhanced speed, Blue gets Blades out and into the hall.

Sparky holds the door, fending off two lizards with quick swipes. Blue hurries past with Blades limping beside her.

Letting go of the sword foams, she slaps the ground in front of her.

The ground glows with orange-white energy and a wall appears. The front wave of lizards slam into it and rebound. The remaining begin their own attack, slashing with claw, tail, and headbutts. Cracks begin to appear in the wall.

Letting the energy flow once more, Sparky turns and runs.

With an explosion that fills the hall, the wall collapses. Animal cries of pain are drowned out with an angry bellow. From the sides of the room comes movement.

A few moments later, Sparky slides to a stop in the first clean hall. Blades lies on the ground, his face grimacing in pain. Blue stands close by, breathing hard.

“What did you?” Blue asks between gasps of breath.

“Tried to build a barrier. It didn’t hold.”

“I think you ticked them off.”

“A little. And there is a lot of them heading this way.”

“Alright.” Blades tries to stand up but his leg refuses to hold the weight.

“What happened?”

“That big one bit it off.”

“Off?” She looks at the blood soaked leg.

“Tried to at least. Advance regenerative abilities.” He answers with a gasp, “Makes useful for recovering lost or damaged limbs but also really painful when I do need to replace them.”

The sound of howling echoes down the hall. Steadily it grows louder.

“What do we do?” Sparky asks as she raises another barrier to block the hall.

“I don’t know. Can you travel? I mean a long ways.”

“I don’t know. I need time to heal. Just. Maybe twenty minutes? Thirty?”

“With how fast those things move, I don’t think we have a time.”

A few feet away, a part of the wall slides upward. A low rumble comes from the hall. The teens struggle to their feet. Each extends their sword-like weapons.

The rumble becomes a low roar.

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Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 6

Editor’s Note: Please forgive the unexpected delay. Holidays are here and required my full focus. I hope to be more consistent! I think that might be a New Year’s Resolution.

“The ship is stabilizing.” Blades murmurs as he glances out of the window. “The ship is still skewed but at least we are not doing vertical jumps anymore.”

“That’s good. Have you found anything?” Blue asks quietly. “Mainly how do we get to the bridge and why is the ship seems to be breaking down.”

With a shake of his head, Blades turns back to the terminal he has managed to gain access. Half of the screen has text slowly scrolling past. The second has an outline of the ship flashing past every second. The three teens shift uneasily as the ship creaks and groans. Error reports flow out of the overhead speakers. Every now and then there is a distant roar.

“Seems like something has gotten into the engineering compartment and is wreaking havoc in the navigation system. That’s what is causing the ship to go nuts. Repairs are underway but there seems to be a problem with the repairs.”

“No parts?” Blue asks.

“Maybe. Maybe not. That.. that part of the report doesn’t make sense.”

“What?” The two girls ask as they lean in.

“Well. Repair units have been dispatched but the system doesn’t show that the repair drones arrived. Or that the repairs have been started. There is also a report of combat units being dispatched. But there is no report that they have arrived. All of which means that there is something going on in engineering. According to these reports, there have been seven repair teams and three security teams sent. All robotic. At this point, the computer is preparing a much larger security team.”

“What do we do? Are we even close to the engineering section?”

“Not at all. We are about halfway through the ship.”

“What do we do? Keep going?”

“Maybe. What about escape pods? Can you access that information from here?”

“Yeah. Give me a second.”

“Sparky, why do you want to know about escape pods?”

“Because there are monsters running around a ship that seems to be falling apart. We may need to get off in a hurry.”

“But we haven’t seen any?”

“Maybe but I’m thinking the reason the ship is going nuts is the monsters.”

“You don’t have any proof.”

“True but have you seen any of those custodial bots? That one we tangled with went for the robot and shredded it.”

“Got the locations. Nearest one is three halls down and two floors below us.”

“Great! I say we go for the escape pods instead of the bridge.”

The other two teens exchange glances but seem to be unsure. Sparky stands up and taps her foot. She glances up and down the hall.

“We need to go.” She says quietly.

“I know we need to go but… what if we need to launch the escape pods from the bridge?” Blue looks down the hall, “And I feel like we are missing something.”

“Yeah well, this empty ship is making me uncomfortable. We haven’t seen or heard of anyone else. In fact, that first robot said that passengers were supposed to be left. I mean, how long ago did they leave? And I find it disturbing that they somehow forgot us.”

“That is disturbing to think about.”

“So which is it? Bridge or Escape pods?”

“Why not both?” Blades stands up and stretches his back, “I say we drop down to the escape pod and see what shape it is in. We’ll know then if we need to head to the bridge or not.”

“Wait. Can you get into the ship logs from here?” Blue looks up at Blades.

“No. Security prevents that access from an information kiosk stations.”

“How did you get access to the repair logs then?”

“Part of the system-wide alert system. I can see the reports about repairs but I can’t influence them or get more specific codes.”

“So what do we do?”

“Like I said. Escape pods.”

The three teens begin walking again. Their footsteps echo through the empty halls. Doors slide open and close if they pass too near. Through viewports they see a yellow sun dawning on the world below.

“Reminds of my family’s Christmas camping trip.” Blue murmurs.

“Say what now?”

“Oh. That sunrise. It reminded of a family camping trip.”

“Wait. Your memories are coming back?”

“A little. I see something and a thought would pop in.”

“That’s good. Maybe the rest of us will have our memories return soon too.”

“That would be nice.” Sparky growls as she rubs her head, “I can’t take much more of these alarms. They are starting to give me a headache.”

“Hey look! Stairs.”

Sparky and Blades look to where Blue was pointing. Next to five open lifts are two stairways leading up and down.

“I am going out on a limb that we shouldn’t use the lifts.” Blue mutters.

“Yep.” Blades laughs as he enters the stairs. “Don’t want to get stuck in one.”

A large shadow appears behind the wall.

“What is that?”

Blades turn.

Suddenly he vanishes.

Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 5

“Blades. How is it going?”

“About the same the last time you asked. Five minutes ago. Just chill Sparky. I’ll get this door open in no time.”

The three teens huddle around a small interface. Blades kneels next to the door with a toolkit stripped from the custodial bot. The two girls stand watch next time him. Blue watches one hall. Sparky the other. So far they have heard or seen nothing.

“Ow.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Shocked myself.” He rubs his head, “I think I am still missing parts of my memory.” He chuckles.

“What?”

“Oh. Just remembered the first time I cut into the software of a security door. I shocked myself so bad that my hair stood out for a week.”

Blue laughs, “Maybe we should have called you Sparky instead.”

“Nah. I rather like Blades….” He frowns as the door display flickered with data.

“What’s wrong now? Another layer of security? Maybe we should try a different door.”

“No. It’s not that. I just don’t remember having bone blades then.” He shrugs as the door unlocks, “Then again, I could still be missing parts of my memory. How are your memories?”

“Fragmented.” Blue says as she boosts herself off the wall, “Like you. Just random thoughts that pop into my head when I say something or we do something.”

“Nothing.” Sparky sighs that turns into a snarl.

“It’ll come. Relax.”

The three teens slip through the doorway. Blue shivers from the cold while their breaths hang in front of them like clouds.

“What do you think?”

“I am beginning to wonder how long we have been on the ice. I mean there is dust and no sign of people. I wonder how long ago the ship was abandoned.”

“Stop. We talked about this already.”

“Ready?”

Blades starts at the sound. He looks over and sees the two girls staring back.

“What?”

“Leaving here. Getting out of this zone? Remember?”

“Oh right.”

The ship suddenly shudders. It tilts violently and the teens are thrown to the side. At once they begin sliding down the hall. The tilt becomes nearly vertical and doors slide past in a blur. Ahead of them is a narrow passage. With a roar, Bones throws out both arms. Bone blades extend and catch the edge of the doorway.

He screams as he jerks to a stop.

Bone creaks as the two girls hit him. They tumble to either side of the door.

“Bones?” Blue calls, “Bones, are you okay?”

Sparky helps Bones to her side of the hallway. He groans as he cradles his arms. Blood drips onto his clothes.

“Warning.” A disembodied voice calls out, “Warning. Structural failure. Warning. Structural failure. Warning. Structural failure.”

“Ya know.” Blades groans, “I thought we were past all of that.”

“Do you think we can get down the hall.” Sparky peers down. “Okay. I may not have my memories but I think I’m afraid of heights.” She scoots back.

“Not without a way to climb.”

“Uh, what about the air vents.” Blue points over their shoulders.

“Are you kidding me? If the hallways are not made for climbing, what do you think that will be of use?”

“Well… For starters, I can polarize my hands. Basically, turn them into magnets.”

“And you couldn’t do it as we were sliding to our doom?”

“Well. I need time to do it. Plus if I touch none metal while doing that I would basically deep fry organic material. Messy.”

“Ah. Thank you for not deep frying me.”

“Your welcome. Sparky? Can you do the same thing?” Blue holds up her hands. Faint electrical lines dance along her palms.”

“Uh. No. I don’t think so.”

“Here. I’ll teach you.”

X

“THE SHIP DID WHAT?”

“The program controlling navigation is glitching. The ship is now mistaking vertical and horizontal positions. We’re trying to access the programming to fix it but right now it isn’t going well. At all.”

“Could this get any worse. Wait. You have that look on your face.”

“No, I don’t. Okay. There is worse news.”

“The specimen is still wreaking havoc but last I saw the security drones were containing and destroying them. Especially the eggs.”

“Yes. Well. There is another problem.”

“I should have stayed in school and become a doctor. What now?”

“We found the data log entry explaining what happened and what went wrong. Here is the file.”

“No. It can’t be.”

“It is.”

“Oh, this just gets better and better. Come on.”

X

Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 04

Blue slowly opens her eyes. The room swims into focus. Cautiously glancing around, she realizes that she is in a bedroom. The sight of stars out of the windows confirms that she is still on the ship. Sitting up, she winces in pain. Her throat and her right arm hurt but otherwise, everything seems to be working. Rolling off the bed, she hears the other two teens.

Blue pushes a small panel and the door slides open. She blinks in the bright light. The room had been divided into two halves. One was a kitchen. The other was a sitting area. More doors leading to empty rooms are just to her right. Sparky and Blades sit around a table. The broken steward bot lies on top with most of its parts hanging outside.

Sparky turns and flashes a warm smile.

“Hey, she’s up and walking.”

“Wha-hap-n?” Blue wheezes out. Pain assails her at the effort.

“Easy.” Sparky stands up beside her, “You were screaming for an hour straight. Just let your voice rest a bit.”

Sparky gently lifts Blue’s arm up and examines it. In the light, there is only the slightest discoloration just above the elbow.

“From what doctor bones over there can figure out, that stuff is a venom that inflicts a large amount of pain to disable targets.”

Blue nods her head.

“Well, you fell and curled into a ball after a few minutes of that thing chasing us. A couple more of those giant robots showed up. While they were getting torn apart, we made our escape. At that point, you fell unconscious. We found this room and have been hiding out since then.”

“And we learn some stuff,” Blade says from his place on the couch. He taps a button and a screen appears above the robot’s eye.

On one side a list of logs appears. On the other side are photos of people, of the planet, and of the ship appear.

“From what we can tell, this is a medical ship sent to the world of Athena in response to some sort of plague that the colony was suffering. It arrived in orbit about three weeks ago with rescue teams, supplies, emergency responders, and of course medical research teams. Several specimens were brought up to be examined.” He spins through the list of logs, “But then something happened. That part of the memory is damaged but it seems like there was an explosion in one of the labs. The ship’s crew and passengers were removed as containment and repair robots worked on getting things back under control.”

“And that’s all that we have found. Well, that and I found the communication link. I tapped into it and have been sending out basically a we-are-alive-help-us message. Nothing yet but hopefully someone realizes that it isn’t a glitch.”

Blue struggles with her voice and softly whispers, “You have your memories?”

Blade nods his head, “Some of it. Started coming back when I was messing with the robot. I like machines so codes and blueprints are in here.” He taps his head, “I am guessing that your memory will come back once we start doing something you like.”

“Right.” Sparky walks over the kitchen, “Right now we just rest, eat, and wait to be rescued.”

“Are we in danger?” Blue asks as she eases into a chair.

“No. According to the repair logs, the ship is fine. Damage was suffered but they reinforced the bulkheads and are already making headway with repairs in that area. As long as we stay away from that part of the ship, we should be fine. As for those animals running around, I think we are also safe.” He frowns, “Apparently where we were on the ship, we were fairly close to that broken containment area. Again. It was all standard protocol. Large damage. Get the people out. Or something like that…”

“What is it?”

“Something…Dang it. I lost it. Anyways.”

Blades push some more buttons. The logs and the photos are replaced with a diagram of the ship. A vast, square vessel with four large engines in a single line. Towards the middle of the top of the ship is a square block. The vessel has thirty decks total and five times as long as it is tall. The diagram shifts and it zooms in on one part of the ship.

“This is the research and specialized medical centers. Apparently, the specimen was on one side of the section and we were on the other.”

“So we get out of this area and we should be fine?”

Blades nods his head slowly.

“But?”

“But if they have locked this section down, we may not be able to get out.”

“Great. This is great news.” Sparky rubs her head, “Can’t remember a thing. Could be trapped with a bunch of monsters, and no way of getting off. Just great.”

“Could be worse?”

“How?”

“We could be dealing with zombies.”

Blue laughs but Sparky stares at him in confusion.

“What’s a zombie?”

“What? You’ve never–? What? How? Oh, we are going to have some fun now. Let me tell you about zombies!”

X

“Doctor. Doctor. Wake up.”

A soft groan, “Oh this had better be good.” The man rolls over sleepily, “This is my first sleep in a week.”

“I know but we have an emergency. Two survivors were mislabeled as specimens.”

“WHAT? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?” The doctor leaps to his feet.

“I don’t know. We have a team checking but right now, they are in the danger zone.”

“Has command been told?”

“Yes, and they are debating on what to do. Unfortunately, someone leaked that info and now we are getting hit with dozens of calls an hour demanding action.”

“Of course they are. Are the team leads assembled?”

“Yes, and we are pulling information packets together. And security is mobilizing.”

“Good. Get us lots of caffeine. We are going to need as much as we can get.”

“Done.”

The doctor slaps the sides of his face and marches out.

X

Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter Three

The vessel shakes again. Blue, Sparky, and Blades pause. All three wait for yet another report of some failure or damage. To their relief, none comes. Yet more shaking comes. The tremors come in bursts and the ship tilts back and forth.

“Oh now what?” Sparky grumbles.

“New damage?” Blue asks.

“No. I don’t think so.” Blades says from the window.

“Why is that?”

“The planet is getting smaller. One of those alerts were warning that the ship was in too low of an orbit. I think whatever is controlling ship just put us into a higher orbit.”

“Oh. Is that a good thing?”

“Yes. Means we are not going to die by falling into the world.” He grins at them.

“Yay us.” Sparky grumbles, “Instead of dying by burning up, we’ll die by getting eaten by a strange reptile creature. Or something.”

“Better chances of survival. Can’t survive a ship that isn’t going to survive.”

“Better chances? Better chances if we’re down on that planet. At least then we have an entire world to run in. We should be getting to a lifeboat. Not the bridge.”

“Assuming that the world doesn’t have its own set of reptiles that will find little humans tasty snacks.” Blades says with a chuckle, “Come on. I am sure that we are just jumping to conclusions. Right?”

“What is that world, anyway?” Blue turns away from the window, “I don’t remember what its name is.” She frowns, “Or anything else for that manner. Does anyone else remember what that world is? Or anything.”

“No.”

“Not a thing.”

“Great.” She sighs.

“Bothering you?”

“A little. I don’t like not knowing. And I don’t even know why I don’t.”

“It is a little strange but like the bots said. Suspended animation does cause amnesia. It’ll come back to us. I mean parts of it already have in a way. Airlocks. Warships. Bridge. Or the fact that we know amnesia is not unusual when being pulled out of an ice cube tray. Our memories are there. Just not clear yet.”

“True.”

A distant howl echoes down the hallway. Shivers run up and down the teens’ spines.

“And what is that?”

“I don’t know.” Sparky flexes her fists, “Where is that stupid little robot anyway? We could use some help. Especially when those things kinda almost got us eaten.”

“Come on.” Blue says as she starts walking again, “The more distance we put between us and it, the better off we’ll be.”

“Good point.” Blades looks up and down the hall, “I am a little surprised we haven’t found some sort of terminal or communication pad yet. You’d think a ship this side would have dozens. Everywhere.”

“Research ships must not have as big of a need?”

“But,” Blue says, “the robots said that there were other passengers.”

“No.” Blades said with a frown, “The robots said it was part of their protocols. Did not mean that there were other passengers. Which would explain why there aren’t any signs of them or any distant lifeboats waiting for the all clear. And the fact all of the quarters we have come across seem to be devoid of personal items. Photos, clothing, toys, or the like.”

“What can we do then?”

“What else is there? Anything we need to do is on the bridge. Finding anyone in charge. Communications. Records. Everything.”

“Fine. The bridge it is.”

“Come on.”

“Wait.”

Blue and Blades stop.

“What is it?”

“I hear something.” Sparky stares down the hall. She stiffens and orange lighting explodes from her forearms, “Something’s coming and it’s coming fast.”

At once Blue and Blades take up defensive positions.

“Got any ideas on how to deal with that thing?”

“I distract it and you two hit it.” Blades answers, “Seems lighting does more danger than my bone blades.”

“Good point. Are you a fast runner?” Sparky asks with a grin.

“I don’t know. About to find out.”

Now Blue can hear something thudding along the hallway. Seconds pass and it grows louder and quicker. Tensing for a fight, the three tense.

Around the corner comes the custodial bot buzzing along its treads. Just behind it comes to a much larger machine.

It has four legs and two arms. Massive claws tip the arms while weapons are mounted to its forearms, back, and flanks.

“Greetings!” The robot says, “You are not in the secure bunker. Why?”

“Uh.” Sparky replies as she shuts down her energy, “One of your friends led a monster that almost ate us. We trapped it in the security bunker.”

For a moment the two robots freeze and stare at the teens. The smaller custodial bot’s lens flickers with changing lights.

“Uh…” Blue murmurs, “Did we break it?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“This is troublesome.” The small robot begins to pace back and forth, “That bunker is the most secure location on this vessel. If it has been compromised then you are in danger.”

“Uh what happens then?” Sparky asks.

“Standby.” The robot freezes again with its lens flickering.

“Is anyone else getting a bad feeling?”

“I had one since I popped out of my unit.”

“Please follow me.”

“Uh, we were going to the bridge.”

“Negative!” The robot spins rapidly and faces the trio, “You are not authorized to access the bridge. Please follow me.”

“Wait. Where are we going?”

The robot suddenly stops. Spins in place than hurries straight towards the teens. The larger robot lumbers forward much faster.

“Stand back. Allow the security unit to serve its purpose.”

“What?”

“What?”

“What?”

Around the corner comes a reptilian beast. This one is much larger than the other two. Large spikes extend from its shoulders and flanks. Both machine and flesh charge each other. Their footfalls shake the floor.

The two giants clash.

Claws screech against metal skin. Meaty blows as metal fists hammer against hard flesh. Back and forth in a wild dance. They spin and twists as they work to gain the advantage. Metal gears whirling and beast roars echo through the hall.

“Do we help?” Blue yells over the battle.

“Maybe. But I am not accurate enough to hit at these speeds.”

“Negative!” The little robot cuts through the sound, “Specimens are not to engage in combat. Protocol dictates that you must be placed in a secure location.”

The robot spins its tracks and begins heading down the hall. Out of a side door, a reptilian beast appears. Smaller and like the original versions they met, it charges down the hall. One foot crushes the robot. It barrels through the teens.

Blue flies through the air and slams into the wall. There is a sharp cry off to her right and a grunt from Blades. Blue cranes her neck and she sees the two creatures battling it out with the giant robot. In the ensuing fight, it has lost one arm. Blood and oil stain the ground red and blue.

“Come on!” Sparky yells, hauling Blue up to her feet, “This is not a time for a nap. Blades? What are you doing That robot is dead!”

“I know!” He yells back as he picks up the damaged unit, “We might be able to salvage part of it.”

“Like what?”

“A map! Communications!” He wheezes.

“Oh.”

The screech of metal being torn cuts into the conversation. The small reptile lies on its side with its guts ripped out. The larger one is in the process of tearing the robot in half.

“Time to go!”

“Ya think?”

The creature roars triumphantly. Its red eyes stare at them. It slowly begins to lumber forward towards them. Opening its mouth once more, green slim flies forward.

Blue screams as some of it strikes her arm. Stumbling from the pain she hears sizzling and the smell of burnt flesh. The pain suddenly explodes. Her arm feels like it is on fire. A flash of orange light flairs off as someone is pulling her back to her feet. More green streams fill the air.

“RUN!”

Blue takes two steps before agony becomes too much. She doubles over and hits the ground. A wail fills the air. She holds onto sanity just long enough to see the creature stand up over her.

Runer’s Tale: Preparation

Another day, another run. This week’s thought/life lesson is preparation.

There was a day where I decided about four hours before running 3 miles I thought it would be a good idea to go eat at Taco Bell. And I mean a number six meal with a big old drink. It was more than I should have eaten or spent but boy did it taste good.

Until I went for the run.

Even hours after eating it, I was struggling to move. It felt like I was holding another twenty pounds around my gut. I was moving slowly and sluggish. Whether because it was bad fuel for my body or the fact that it was a big meal (for me), I was not doing well.

When I got done with the run, I decided not to eat so heavy before I go run with my life group.

Then God asked me this: “Why not do that for every run?”

Then it hit me.

Choosing to run for a race requires preparation and dedication. Running every day and running harder each time. Eating right. Sleeping right. Investing my time in what is important.

The same could be said for biggest race that anyone can run in: your life.

No one can run it for you. Some get a better starting position than others. And others squander what advantage they were born with. But no matter, you still have to run.

Dedication. Practicing every day. Pushing yourself harder and go further than ever before. That’s how you run the race.

Winning the race, well that is just living life the best way you can. Not for mankind or some other glorious cause. But living a life that you can live with. Granted if you go off the rails and live a less than moral life you may have others questioning your life choices.

But living for something you believe in is a lot better than living a life someone else told you to live.

Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 02

Down the hall, it comes bellowing. Sharp claws and teeth glint in the flashing light. Yet its flesh was black, a shadow rushing forward. It cuts the distance between the two in half in seconds.

The girl freezes. Her fists clenched by her side. The creature begins running on its hind legs. Foreclaws stretches forward.

Thirty feet separates them.

Twenty feet.

Ten feet.

The creature bellows with forelimbs stretching out to her.

Five feet.

The girl leaps to the side, slamming into the ground. The creature flies past, claws flexing and reaching for her. Lighting explodes from the girl’s arm and slams into the animal’s flank. It roars in pain and skids down the hall with flesh burned.

As the animal bellows in rage, the girl leaps to her feet. Blue-white lines burn in the darkness as if living lightning has etched itself into her skin. It flows from her elbows to her fingertips like veins.

She attacks again and again. Bolts of energy arcs from her hands and slams into the creature. In angry, the creature rises up on its hind legs. It comes on, roaring and slamming its tail into the walls or floor.

She backs away and continues her attack. Flesh burns and the air is filled with the scent of charred flesh and sulfur. The chest, head, and arms are crisped with burns but still, the creature moves forward. Its red eyes appear as orbs on its blackened skin.

The girl turns and sprints. In a heartbeat, the vein-like lines in her arms disappear. At the same moment, her legs glow with similar blue-white markings.

As the energy in her legs grow brighter, the girl begins to run faster.

The animal leaps after her but she soon leaves it far behind. Its angry howls echo along the empty hall. After a moment she hears a buzzing sound just to the right and behind. Glancing over her shoulder, she sees the little robot.

After a few moments, the robot speeds up and passes her on the right.

“Please follow me. The bunker is not far.”

Taking several turns and running down empty halls, the robot comes to a stop in front of a large door. Unlike other doors, this one is much thicker. Four thick bolts cross in front of the door. The little machine rolls over to a low interface and plugs in.

Soft beeps and clicks echo from the small interface.

A moment later, loud clunks and the sound of gears turning boom from the large door. The thick bolts slide back. The door slowly slides back into the wall. The teen raises a hand to shield her eyes in the harsh light.

The little robot rolls into the room.

“Please. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.”

“I thought I was supposed to get to an escape pod.” The teen mutters as she follows the robot in. “Wasn’t that protocol or something.”

“Emergency Protocol Delta overrides all other actions. In the event of containment lost, securing the asset in question and preserving the other assets is a top priority. All means of possible escape are shut down until the asset is secured. Please remain here. There is food, water, and sleeping quarters available for you.”

The robot spins in place and rolls out of the room. At the same moment, the doors begin to close.

“And where are you going?”

“Executing Emergency Protocol Delta.” It replies before the doors shut.

The sound of locks closing echoes ominously.

“Guess I’ll stay here.”

The girl wanders over to the wall. It seems to shimmer then melt into a clear glass. Below the ship, the world spins serenely. A forest covers a long land mass. Mountain ranges break through the forests like some immense creatures wading through a green ocean.

“Good evening, Specimen 23X7.”

The girl jumps at the voice.

“I am the dedicated operation program for security bunker three three seven, code-named Sarah. Biological scans indicate hunger.”

“I guess so.”

“There is food available in the gallery. Second hatch on your right.”

“Thank you. Um. Do you have records on this ship?”

“I do.”

“What is this ship?”

“This is the Medical Research Vessel, New Horizon. Launched in the year 2347, this vessel serves as an emergency response vessel. Currently, it is conducting research into genetic engineering.”

“For what?”

“Improving the human genome and eliminating the defects that humans are afflicted with.”

“Who started this?”

Before the computer could answer, the door begins to unlock.

The girl turns and energy flairs down through her arms.

The first thing she notices is a small robot.

“Specimen 23X7. I am Biological Mechanical Steward Unit Number 14.”

As it rolls in, two other teens step through the doors. They stop when they notice her. Orange lines crackle down the length of the girl’s arms. At once the two-step apart, making a single shot difficult to hit them both. The girl has dull earth-brown skin and long black hair. The boy has black hair and fair skinned.

“This is the security bunker. You will remain here until the threat has been contained.”

“An elementalist.” The boy murmurs.

“Who are you?”

The two look at each other.

“Don’t remember then?”

The boy nods again, “According to the robot, I am 29X7 and he is 12X7.”

“I am 23X7. Apparently.”

“Nice to meet you.” The girl smiles.

“Please enter the security bunker.” The robot says, “At once. Specimen 332578 has lost containment. Security response is in progress. Please remain here until further notice.”

The two newcomers step in just as the robot slides backward. The door begins to close. A massive creature explodes from the left. Massive jaws clamp down on the robot. Sparks explode as the machine is crushed in the jaws. Spitting out the remains of the robot, the creature pokes its massive head into the room.

In the harsh light, the three can easily see the leathery skin, striped pattern, and four-inch teeth. The head itself is nearly four feet long and two feet tall. Powerful forelimbs hold the door apart. Gears grind and groan as it struggles to close.

Without a word, 23X7 sends out a blast of energy from her arms. The blow knocks it back but not enough to break it loose. Instead, it charges into the room roaring.

The other two launch their own attacks. 29X7 launches her own electric attack, knocking the creature to its side. The boy steps in quick. Long, flat objects erupt from his forearms. Wielding them like swords, the boy slices into the creature’s flank.

It bellows in rage and spins, lashing its tail and arms out.

All three duck and slide, partially avoiding the attack.

“Out!” 23X7 yells, “We need to get out!”

The boy nods his head. Using his arm blades, he lashes out at the tail, cutting deeply into the flesh. The creature roars and jerks its tail out of danger. Using their abilities, the two girls leap through the doorway, dragging the boy with them.

The slam into the wall. Together, they watch as the creature leaps forward. The door slams shut just as the creature reaches them. A muffled bellow and pounding can be heard on the other side.

23X7 lets out a breath.

“That was fun.” The other girl says, “You two okay?”

“Yes.” The boy says. He winces as his forearm blades begin sliding back into his arms.

“Anklo?” 23X7 asks.

He nods, “Yep. And sparky here is an electric type. Just like you.”

“Nice.”

“What do we do now?” She asks, standing up, “Wait here?”

“I don’t think so.” 23X7 says as they stand up with her.

“Why?”

“Because that wasn’t the first one I met. I was attacked before I went into the bunker. I was able to wound it.”

“But that one,” The boy juts with his chin, “wasn’t wounded by anyone or anything.”

“Right.”

“Which means there is at least one more.”

“And they seem to be attacking this point.”

“A bit of a guess.”

“Would you like to error on the side of caution or risk?”

“Good point but where do go?”

“The bridge? Ship has to have one.”

“True.”

“So.” The boy says with a grin, “I am not really going to go with the whole numbers and letter thing. What do you want to go by as?”

23X7 shrugs and holds up her arms, “Blue?”

“Then that makes you Orange?” He turns to the girl.

“Oh no. Not at all. I’ll go with Sparky. What about you?”

“Blades.” Bone structures slide out then back in, “I’ll go with Blades.”

X

Quiet murmurs and the glow of screens fill the dark chamber. Dozens of individuals watch the screens, making notes and whispering instructions.

“How are they doing?”

“Alive so far.” One of the individuals says, “But they’ve been lucky. Very lucky. But I don’t know how long their luck will hold out.”

“So far?”

“Containment lost has already caused the lost of fifty specimens.”

“Security?”

“They are having trouble getting to Specimen 332578.”

“What would happen if we cannot regain control?”

“Then our research is lost.”

“What about the pods?”

“Protocol override would be required. Right now, anyone up there is stuck there.”

“What about an extraction team?”

“Possible but if we do not, any studies could be lost thanks to environment breach.”

A moment of silence.

“Sir?”

“No. You’re right. We were going to test them. Just not this soon. Remain on task.”

X