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.
The creature bellows with forelimbs stretching out to her.
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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“What do we do now?” She asks, standing up, “Wait here?”
“I don’t think so.” 23X7 says as they stand up with her.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“Containment lost has already caused the lost of fifty specimens.”
“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.
“No. You’re right. We were going to test them. Just not this soon. Remain on task.”