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

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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.

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.

Red

Red.
Red like the Fall’s leaves
Red as the setting sun
And the cardinal who sings

Red.
Red like the fire’s glow
Red as the child’s crayon
And the Christmas lights

Red.
Red like the blood of wounded soldiers
Red as the eyes that mourn
And the heart that breaks

Red.
Red like the human’s rage
Red as the victims killed
And the blood-stained car wreck

Red.
The hurts we carry on our flesh
The joys we keep in your hearts
Can be painted in red.