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STORY TIME SATURDAY: “The RELICs Experiment”

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Welcome to Story Time Saturday!

These are flash fiction stories. My word count goal is no more than 1,000 words each story. I’ll show you the prompt, the story, and a teaser graphic.

I thought I’d do something a little different today and give you a glimpse inside a finished story. This one started with a simple story prompt and turned into a full short story. This is from the opening scene.

The Asset

“The RELICs Experiment”

Beads of sweat gathered on my forehead. Jonah was in this building for a reason. My Intel, however, didn’t indicate whether he was searching for something. Lack of knowledge never deterred me before, but the quaking in my limbs might. I gripped my weapon tighter and pushed off the wall.

“Lieutenant Mathers? Alecia? Can you hear me?” It was Preston Gage, a member of Control. I’d been in the field for over an hour, thirty minutes longer than what was safe.

“Yes, I’m here,” my voice wavered. “I need a few more minutes.” My foot caught the edge of some rubble in the hallway. Damn. I regained my balance and pushed the pile around with my boot. Human remains. Another RELICs victim. I hated my job.

“Unacceptable,” Preston yelled in my ear. “Get back to base now.” I was defying orders, yet again, and it pissed him off. He knew that when my empathic abilities overwhelmed me, I took unnecessary risks. Sometimes being risky got the job done, and this one wasn’t finished yet.

“Gage, my brother lost his life over something in here. I have to find it.” I silenced the com, not waiting for the argument that was coming. A possibly fatal decision. There’d be hell to pay, but I’d deal with it later.

Which way did Jonah go? I stopped at the foot of a staircase. The blazing sun shone through a hole onto the steps littered with more bones, odd remnants of clothing, and shell casings. Large clumps of crumbling concrete and rebar left a treacherous path for me to avoid. The flooring bounced on the first step. On the second one, my foot crashed through the wood planks. My shoulder hit the wall pulverizing it on impact. I struggled to stay upright.

“What the—” I yanked my foot out. Thank God my military-issue boot didn’t come off. Got to be more careful, or I will end up as RELICs bait.

Radiation had destroyed the wallpaper and the stairs in this structure. Jonah wouldn’t have risked going upstairs. I turned and walked down the hall sidestepping the remains.

The air was stifling in this part of the building. My containment suit provided a thin barrier against the UV radiation. It was as helpful as wearing a rubberized suit into a furnace.

The stench from the end of the hall, like fresh road kill, grew stronger the closer I got to the graffiti riddled door. A bitter, sour taste crept up my throat. The sensors on my suit flashed. A life form remained in the room. Jonah. My heart thumped like a runaway jackhammer filling me with hope.

My body grew heavier as I continued down the hall. Was it the depleted oxygen that sapped all my energy? Or, was it the hopelessness I felt every time I came to the surface?

Neither.

I wanted Jonah to be alive, but finding my brother alive was as likely as a rainstorm.

I cocked my weapon, said a prayer, and entered the room.  Jonah’s half-eaten body, still in his suit without his helmet, lay near the door with flies swarming around it. I sank to my knees, rubbing my hand against my chest. The pain cut through me. His pale blue eyes staring blankly at me begging for help, or release, hurt. I swallowed a sob, reached over, and closed them. He didn’t deserve to die like that.

I pushed his ash blonde hair off his forehead. Now, it was up to me to…

My spine tingled—my internal warning system.

Ba-doom shum, ba-doom shum.

Something dragged itself down the hall.

Ba-doom shum, ba-doom shum.

The noise grew louder. I whirled around. The shadow approached me.

I blinked hoping the sweat trickling into my eyes hampered my vision. No such luck.

My heart raced. The black, soulless eyes of the RELIC stared in my direction. He couldn’t see me. He’d lost that part of his humanity a long time ago. Jonah discovered humans left behind a vapor trail, akin to an aura, which was only detected by RELICs. Most likely he was coming to finish his meal. I pushed the thought from my mind.

Jonah was not food.

The creature still resembled a man, but its skin was gray and oozed the blood from whoever was his last meal.

I prayed it wasn’t Jonah.

His hair was matted and dirty. Maggots fell from his clothing, squirming on the dust covered floor. A partially severed leg trailed behind him. The corpse stopped just short of the doorway and opened its mouth. The foul stench from its guts assaulted my nose followed by an ear-splitting shriek filling the room.

I jumped up. Raised my weapon. Fired. The RELIC blew apart, leaving behind a fetid trail of black dust.

I inhaled, sucking up all my remaining oxygen. I needed to get out of there before my reserve pack ran out. RELICs always traveled in groups. More might be waiting for me.

I inputted my coordinates into the GPS device on my chest plate.

My body went numb. I’d give anything to escape the misery and despair. Protocol ran through my mind—collection team picking up Jonah’s body and depositing it for cremation, the interplanetary digiprint delivered to my folks, his ashes returned to New Terra. The thought alone made my heart ache. I sniffed. No time for crying in the field. My subordinates would think I was weak. Only the strong survived in my line of work.

I swallowed my grief and started to leave. A green light glowing in the corner caught my eye. It was a Paradigm, a programmable digital recording machine. I bent, picked up the black box, and pushed the button. I turned on my com.

My CO screamed obscenities in the background. “What do you mean she cut off communications?”

If creeks still existed, I’d be up one without a paddle.

“The Paradigm is activated,” Preston’s low voice crackled in my ear. “You did well, Mathers.”

Relics

 

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