Peeling Back

It’s been a while. My contribution to this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

Peeling back the cover was the easy part. It was the thin sheet that concerned him. Cold air settling on bare flesh would be a wake-up call to the deepest sleeper on this ship, with everyone programmed to fear the cold like his kind were prone to fear the heat.

The ceiling ducts clicked, slowly at first, gaining tempo before the cabin heat blasted against his back. Now was his moment. He had to work fast or he’d melt before he got out of there.

Index finger and thumb of each hand pinched the top of the sheet. The sleeper shifted her legs. Her limp arm dropped from her side to the cot. She rolled onto her back, and he used the distraction of her motion to jerk the sheet down to her knees. And there it was. Not even strapped down. Waiting for him.

There was something else–a tension on his leg. His eyeballs burned in the sockets. That heat. It was shutting down his sight, his lungs. He’d discarded his suit outside the cabin to gain agility, but he’d underestimated how quickly their heat would affect him. He reached to free his leg but his fingers met the hot skin of an EF-19 human fist clutching his pant leg. One merciful moment of regained sight showed him her outstretched arm, her open eyes, her hardened glare. Just before he fell to his knees.

Infinity in Pieces

I didn’t intend to contribute to Inspiration Monday this week, but this one just popped in there without my consent. Can anyone find the word with the double meaning?

* * * * *

I was inspecting the puncture in my chest armor when something slammed me from behind. My body joined the others on the ground, and I rolled until I found the hard flat surface. I grabbed the side of my helmet–a reflex, to fling it off. To breathe free air.

Your world is your suit. Anything outside your suit will bring death until proven otherwise.

This air was not free, and I couldn’t afford what they were charging. On my back, through the dust on my helmet’s visor, I watched the largest moon’s moon, its visible spin, its tarnished brown surface rolling to brilliant pink. Moons of moons. I wanted to go home, to my single, unencumbered moon, my one reliable piece of the infinity of space.

My head swam when I braced my elbows against the ground and pushed up, and wet heat crawled down my arms and back. I moved my eyes to Suit.Status on my helmet’s control panel. Status normal. No breach. All strength left my arms and I fell back, into a slough inside my suit.

My training officer had warned of death outside my suit, never of one inside it.

How Did You Get in Here?

My contribution to this week’s Inspiration Monday.

* * * * *

I round the fender of the car and power on my scanner. Just a chick fumbling with her keys. Nothing to see here. The car chirps twice, disarmed. I get in and push the ignition button. The dash lights up all around me like a miniature city at night. The engine growls–a surprised grizzly woken early from deep slumber. Easy, boy. And all this in less than ten seconds from the bushes to the driver’s seat. I owe Shayd for his new program. How I’ll pay him? TBD.

Shove into first, and the car squeals out of there. Let them hear. At zero to sixty in three point five seconds, it’s far too late for them anyway. I check the rear view mirror, and that’s when I see it hunkering in the shadows surrounded by tinted glass. A bent form. A shoulder. Human hair. Buzzed short, like a man’s. I have no weapon, not even some lousy pepper spray. Be cool. If he was supposed to be here, he wouldn’t be hiding. If he was going to attack me, he already would’ve.

“How did you get in here?”

Clothes rustle against the seat. His eyes appear in the mirror. “Same way you did.”

“Yet I’m the one driving it away.”

“I thought you were the owner.”

“How do you know I’m not?”

He reaches to the front seat and picks up my scanner. “This doesn’t look like the factory key.”

I snatch it from him. “Where do you want me to drop you off?”

He laughs. “Not so fast. I was here first.” Arms, head, and torso shove between the headrests and into the front passenger seat, then legs, too long for such a maneuver but he does it anyway, all without kicking me in the face. “Seems there’s one thing we both want.”

“No, there’s something I have, and something you want.”

He doesn’t answer right away. He’s waiting for me to look at him. I shouldn’t, but I do.

He raises both eyebrows. Smiles. “Are we still talking about the car?”

Point System

“Spelunking sounds fun. And a good excuse to get out of the house often.”

He motions to the bartender for another round. “Yep. I try to go every weekend.”

Every weekend? I bet the gear is expensive, too. Buying accessories for a hobby is almost as fun as the hobby itself. All points forfeited. You lose, buddy.

I grab my purse. “Do you know where the ladies’ room is?”

He points, then picks up our drinks. “Should I get us a table?”

“Sure.” I head in the direction of the restrooms but take the stairs instead to the second floor bar. After five minutes of looking wistful with my strawberry daiquiri as my only company, a tall-blond-and-handsome elbows his way next to me against the bar and orders something on tap. The foam clings to his upper lip with the first sip, but he notices quickly and licks it off. One point. Oh, and what’s that? A tingle in my stomach from the sight of that skillful tongue? One extra point.

“Hi,” he says.

“Hi.”

He offers his hand. “Daniel Rivers.”

Another point for an easy to spell last name. I take his hand. “Rebecca Robertson.” And I could keep my initials. One more point. Plus one extra point for a straightforward greeting with no pickup line. “Do you go by Daniel?”

“Since I was eighteen.”

“Can I call you Danny?”

He smiles. Good smile. Good teeth. And that stomach tingle again. Three points. “Depends on the circumstance.” And two more points for a sense of humor. “Can I get you another drink?”

“If I have another, I might need a ride home.”

“No problem. I can take you home.”

Let’s kick this up a notch. “I might have some friends joining me. I’m usually the designated driver.”

He smiles again. Wow. Five more points. “Well, that might be a problem. I drive a pick-up.”

Oh. A truck. Even better than a sports car. He’s practical, and probably handy. And can deliver that chest of drawers I’ve had my eye on. Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner.

Unwanted Promotion

Begin Program C783.
Delete Program C782.
Locate the red suit hanging on the back of your cabin door.
Remove the red suit from the hanger.
Put on the red suit.
Locate your boots and weapon and place them inside your combat bag.
Proceed with your combat bag to Quadrant 2, Station 74.
Report to your new team leader.
End program.

The command module’s speaker clicked off. I stared at the chip in my open palm.

J√©vok jerked the bandage tight on my arm. “Ready?”

He took the chip out of my hand. It plunged next to his into the glass of ninety eight point six degree water as he and I plunged into the air circulation duct.

The Devil’s Throne (My Brother’s Descent, Part 6)

Part 6 of the series. The full series is here.

* * * * *

“Do it,” you say again.

This end is too perfect. Too deserved. And if this ghost of your brother is the real deal this time, then this end is poetic justice.

You open your eyes. The gun has tipped slightly, so it now aims, lazy and uninterested, at your upper lip instead of your forehead. Your brother’s attention is fixated on the ground next to you.

The kid you used to know would pause, wouldn’t have the courage to pull the trigger. He’s not that kid anymore. He’s not any kid you know. He’s a young monster with a big gun. An adolescent Tyrannosaurus Rex–wild and impulsive and more frightening than the adults of his species. And you know it’s not his fear tipping that gun down because you can taste the power in the air around him. You recognize the flavor–it’s the dirty kind, gained from squashing others. Causing suffering. Taking souls. It’s a power not granted by that gun, or those two-hundred-dollar sneakers, or the gang of guys behind him. It comes from inside him.

You did send him to hell. You sold him to the devil, and he ripped out the devil’s heart and took the devil’s throne. He doesn’t see what he’s become. And you are the only one who can save him.