Screaming Candle

All That Remains – Part 1

A lifeless wind pushed across an unforgiving planet.  Red iron desert and alkaline salts gave the wind grit, bite, and angry color, a color that reflexively spoke to the core of any sentient life form.  It said, you are not welcome here.

Mixie’s boots crunched over the gravel as she ran, blaster in one hand, useless infopod in the other.  She was glad for the stinging dust and its angry color but now that the wind was dying, the dust settled.  It no longer got in her eyes, but she would have cried a river of tears if it would have kept them from flying.

“Halt!” The robotic voice commanded from behind.

Hundreds of robotic soldiers emerged from the same dust storm and kept pace with the fleeing woman in her white flight suit.   With a clear target, the robots began shooting.

“Argh! Dammit!”  One blot grazed Mixie’s leg, slowing her progress as bolts flew everywhere.  The robots didn’t need good aim.  They had numbers.

“Mixie,” The voice said.  Mixie could hear the whir of it’s jet pack gaining elevation. “You are found to be guilty of espionage against the Flange. Your continued evasion proves your guilt.”

With a huff, Mixie twisted, ignoring the pain in her thigh and shot.  The graceless robot sputtered and crashed back to the ground, where the countless others walked over or around it.  Her glance back showed that very few were becoming airborne.  Not a good sign.  They wouldn’t waste energy flying if they had already calculated her capture as inevitable.  Another of the robots continued to speak.

“Destroying one of our rank will not save you. We will not tire. There are scores of us. We have your accomplices. We have your ship. We Have your data.  Soon all will be broadcast back to the Center.”

“Well then you don’t really need me, do you?”  She said between ragged breaths.  She was surprised when it answered.

“Need is irrelevant.  We have been mandated by The Center to retrieve your torso and head alive. Extraneous parts are to be left at the site of capture.”

“Great,” She said, looking across the plain.  In the distance, what looked like a forest of tall columns sprouted from the ground.  She sprinted to it as fast as she could limp.  It was good enough and she relished the feel of rocks under her boots.

From behind her, she heard the sound of the robots activating their hover units.  Maybe there was hope.  Acting on instinct, she dashed left through the odd pillars, hoping to throw off her pursuers.  A few fleeting moments gave her the impression that it might work, until a robot clumsily slid into her path.

She shot the robot full in the chest and turned back to the right.  They would know where she was.  They would all know.

And then the pillars were gone.  She ran out onto a plain every bit as flat as the one she had just left.  No time to think.  Run.

A massive bolt struck her and sent her tumbling to the ground. “Ah!” She screamed.  “No! no. Not … Not FAIR!” She considered her blaster, considered the taste of the barrel.  She was looking down that barrel when the sound of a hovering robot became louder and crunched down near her.

Looking up, the expressionless camera pods focused on her.  “You…”

She shot the robot dead center and it fell away from her.  As the rest of the robots crunched their way through the maze of pillars, Mixie tried to crawl away over the endless plain of sand. The robo she’d shot could no longer move, but it continued to talk. “Damage to one unit will not prevent your capture, Mixie.  We have been told that in times like this, you humans usually choose to genuflect to your deity.  You should do so now before you are disassembled.”

The shot tore through the crippled robot, obliterating it.  Mixie looked down the sight of the energy weapon and cursed herself for wasting time.  Flipping back over to her knees, she continued her painful crawl.  As the loping crunches grew louder, she knew she would know the taste of that barrel.

A wave of energy unexpectedly raced across the desert plain in front of her.  It looked like death, but at least a more tempting and complete death than a blaster bolt.  Mixie continued to crawl.  It washed over her like a blanket of static, loud and impressive.  Once it was gone, all the dust surrounding her stuck to her like a magnet and her wounds screamed from the sand and grit.

She clenched her teeth, but continued to crawl, and crawl, and crawl. She listened for the sound of robos crunching or flying that would be the signal to have a final meal of blaster bolt sandwich.  She listened, but nothing came.  Looking over her shoulder, she saw that her crawl had taken her only meters from the pillars, but out in the open.  Nothing came.  It was quiet, just her and the angry colored sand.

All That Remains – Part 2

[Note: This is a piece that’s not terribly long, but I’m putting it out in parts just to get back into the swing of writing.  August hasn’t been a terribly kind month and this is an attempt to break the logjam.

I’ll be back on The Strange and other projects soon. But until then, enjoy my emulation, update, and tribute to 1950’s sci-fi rendered in Liquid Wax.

Stay Weird

-SC]