Monday Stories: Red Fire, Chapter 01


“Are you sure about this?”

“About what?”

“This.”

Silence.

“Well?”

“Am I sure about what is going to happen? Yes. Am I sure if this is the right thing, no.”

“Then why do it?”

“It is the only way.”

Silence.

“It is the only way.”

“Are you sure?”

A soft click echoes in the room.

X

Chapter 01

Klaxons wail and the hull shudders. Normal lights flicker as power surges. Red emergency lights whirl within domes. A box-like machine speeds through empty halls on a pair of wide treads. Four mechanical arms are tucked along its side. On top of its metal body is a structure is a security camera-like structure.

“This is a Class Five Emergency. This is a Class Five Emergency.”

The machine passes open hatches after open hatches. Some lead to vacant personal cabins Others are grand rooms for eating, entertainment, or dancing.

“Warning. Hull breach. Deck Seven. Section Three. Repairs commencing. Warning. Hull breach. Deck Seven. Section Three. Repairs commencing.”

The robot glances up at the disembodied voice and shakes its head. The little machine turns its head and looks out of the window. A green and blue world turns beneath it. In the distance a yellow star burns.

The alarm wails once again.

“Warning. Starboard thrusters. Inoperable. Warning. Starboard thrusters. Inoperable.”

At that new announcement, the robot returns its focus. The little machine moves along at a steady pace until it reaches a closed hatch.

It passes through another hatch and rolls to a stop.

Before it is a single black pod. Despite the power fluctuations, the pod’s light remains steady. The robot turns and runs over to an interface mounted in the wall. Extending one arm, it slips its clawed hand into a jack.

A moment later, a quiet humming begins to fill the room. The lights in the pods begin to pulse brightly. A moment later, each one splits open and a child spills out of it. The girl turns and begins coughing violently. From the lens of the robot’s head, a blue light runs along the length of the child.

“Subject 23X7. Human. Female. Elementalist. Electric. Age 13. Four feet. Five inches. Black hair. White skin. Blue eyes. Status. Elevated blood pressure. Health. Normal.”

The girl turns towards the voice. A black jumpsuit encases her but leaves her head, hands, and feet bare. She coughs violently and looks around in confusion. Her breathing comes hard and she shivers in the cold air.

“What?” The girl stammers. “What? Who are you? What are you? Where am I?”

“I am Biological Mechanical Steward Unit Number 7. I am a long-term facility caretaker. You are currently on board the Medical Research Ship New Horizons. An emergency has been declared and emergency protocols are now in effect. You are required to be transferred to the escape pod facility. Please follow me.”

“Warning. Power loss at critical levels. Warning. Power loss at critical levels.”

“What’s going on?” The girl struggles to her feet. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“The ship has suffered a catastrophic failure. Cause. Unknown. In the event of catastrophic failure. All passengers are to be awakened and removed to the escape pods. Please follow me.”

“All passengers?” the girl asks as the little machine leaves the room.

A tremor shakes the floor.

“We must hurry.”

“What is going on?” The girl rubs her head, “How did I get here? I don’t remember.”

“Memory loss is normal for individuals waking from extended sleep. It will return shortly. Please stay with me.”

The ship lurches as she loses her footing. The girl slides along the width of the room. She bounces against the wall and rolls onto the window. Below her, a storm swirls. It leaves an oceanfront and onto a forest-covered land.

“Stabilizing. Stabilizing.” The speakers blare.

Slowly the ship shifts and levels out. At once she drops to the floor and takes a second look at the world swirling below her.

“Please follow me. The ship’s operating system and repair units will continue to stabilize and repair the ship. You must come with me.”

“Wait. You said that there were others?”

“Correct.”

The girl slides to a stop, “What is going on?”

The robot pauses. Its rectangle head spins and faces the girl.

“Please. Follow me. It will all be explained.”

The girl follows after the robot. The machine moves quickly with a quiet hum of its track. The ship’s intercom system continues to sound out updates and warnings.

“This vessel is en route to the colony world Athenia. However, a ship-wide emergency has required all passengers and crew to be evacuated. You are part of the last to be evacuated.”

“Wait. But the ship sounds like it is getting fixed.”

“Protocol dictates in a Class Five Emergency, all crew and passengers are to be evacuated until the ship is restored to Status Normal and the Captain has cleared the ship.”

A low howl fills the air, the girl slides to a stop.

The robot’s head spins slowly.

“What was that?” She asks in a hoarse whisper.

“Standby. Standby.”

The howl comes again. This time it is closer.

The robot spins in place and begins sprinting down the hallway in the opposite direction. The girl takes one look down the hall towards the sound then starts running after the robot.

“What is happening?” She wheezes out as her chest begins to burn with the effort of running.

“Containment of Specimen 332578 has been lost. Emergency Protocol Delta now in effect.”

“What was lost and what is Protocol Delta?” The girl slides to halt and doubles over.

The robot rolls back towards the girl, “Please hurry. You must go to the bunker.”

“Why?”

The hall lights flicker twice than falls dark. Yellow emergency lights burn to life. The howl comes again. This time much closer.

“Specimen 332578 is classified as a Level 10 Experiment. Any containment lost of a Level 10 Experiment is an immediate transfer of all Specimens to the secure bunker and an immediate purge of the facility. Such protocols have a thirty minute wait time. You now have twenty-eight.”

A howl erupts at the end of the hall. The flickering lights reveal a large shadowy figure at the end of it. The yellow lights flicker off its teeth. With a howl, it leaps forward.

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