Author’s Note: Each Tuesday I share a chapter from my current science fiction work in progress. As you read, please keep in mind this is a first draft. There will be mistakes an inconsistencies.
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Hours seemed to pass. I was dehydrated and finding it harder and harder to keep moving. Sam had gone in search of water so I determined that some must be in the room where we now were. Most of the broken wall had been pulled away and I was certain no more would fall on her. My next task was to find water.
Some of the shelves had boxes on them, but inspecting one after another they were empty. I was ready to go search further into the facility when I saw the edge of a silver box under a pile of rubble. This was an important box, my brain told me. I expended the last of my strength digging away enough rubble that I was able to slide the box out the rest of the way. Thank the skies! It was water and food!
The bottles were very small, each holding just a little more water than would fit in the palm of my cupped hand. I knew it was wrong but I drank two immediately. I then opened a silver package with red letters reading, “rations” on the outside. This must be food. I took a bite and it tasted like a combination of sawdust and mold. Still, I was starving so I fought my gag reflux and ate on. I took three bites, albeit large bites, and closed the package back and carried the silver box over to Sam. Slowly I was able to poor one bottle of water down her throat.
Sam’s breathing was much stronger now. I knew I had saved her but I did not know how. I needed to finish digging her out but my energy was completely spent. I cleared away a spot next to her and lay down on the cold concrete. Immediately I fell asleep.
“Roman,” it was Sam’s voice though much weaker than I had first heard. I sat up and flipped on the lantern.
“Hey, you’re back,” I smiled at her.
“You too.” She tried to smile back but the pain was too severe.
“I need to finish digging you out,” I told her but she shook her head from side to side.
“Others?” she asked me.
I knew what she meant. “I saw three on the way here,” I informed her. “All dead.”
I did not want to further frustrate her, but I had no choice.
“I don’t know who Max is.”
She squinted her eyes. I was not sure if it was from pain or frustration or both.
“Doctor,” she finally said. Sam must mean the woman in black.
“I have not seen her.”
Sam exhaled slowly. “Find her.”
She tried to lift her head from the floor but immediately collapsed back in pain.
“You can’t go anywhere,” I told her.
“You,” she looked at me. I saw the pleading in her eyes. “Important.”
Against her wishes, I forced her to drink another bottle of water and then set out to find Max.
I did not know where to go. Most of the dust and smoke had cleared. Only a few lights were flickering here and there. I decided that since I had found no one alive on the way to find Sam that I should press on further in that direction.
Several doors past the metal one, I saw scrawled on the wall, “Med.” This must be the right area. Most of the doorway had collapsed and only a triangle of open space remained at the bottom. I kicked at the debris a few times to make sure it was solid and then got on the floor and crawled through the opening.
It was a disaster but this was the room I had first woken up in.
“Max,” I called out. The room was larger than I remembered and most of the white lights were now in pieces on the floor. “Max,” I called out a little louder.
Suddenly a hand came from behind and covered my mouth. “Turn out the light and be silent,” a woman whispered in my ear. Obediently I switched the lantern off. The woman pulled me backward into a metal cabinet. There was barely enough room for one in the cabinet, but she pulled me closer and tried to shut the door in front of us.
“What are we doing?” I whispered.
“Silence!” she hissed at me.
There was a noise in the room. I did not know what it was but it made my blood cold and I froze where I was. I heard the noise again, a little louder. It was soft rattle working its way up a long gullet. The woman clutched me tighter. Neither of us was breathing.
Glass crunched on the floor not far from us. Something large had crushed it. The rattle sound was closer. Something was being dragged alone behind it.
My heart was pounding. Fear gripped me that whatever was outside the cabinet would here it beating. I let in a small breath. The woman pulled me tighten and clasped her hand over my nose and mouth.
The thing in the room had heard something. It turned swiftly toward the cabinet and debris scattered on the floor behind it. The dragging sound must have been some sort of tail.
I stared unblinking through the small gap opening where the cabinet door could not close completely. Four silver eyes appeared just inches away were getting closer.
Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light in the room. I caught of glimpse of the creature jump to the ceiling and skitter away. A second later two flares lit up and cast red light around the room. There was nothing in the room but two men holding flares and medical equipment. Whatever the creature had been, it disappeared that quickly.
“You can breathe,” the woman removed her hand and not gently pushed me from the cabinet. I spun to look at her and it was the woman in black.
“What in the name of all that is good…?” I could not even finish my sentence.
“Plax,” one of the men said. “Aliens.”
“He knows,” the woman barked.
“Are you Max?” I asked.
“You know I am,” she grunted. For a doctor, she had no bedside manner.
“Sam is hurt, buried.” My thoughts were racing. I could not make sense of what had just happened.
“She is OK,” one of the men offered. “Menton is with her. We need a carry board to bring her here.”
“How bad?” Max ignored me and asked the men who had saved us.
“Bad,” the men did not hold back. “She has bots. She may be all right.”
“I’m glad she had the sense to be carrying her bots.”
“I got the bots.” Everyone in the room seemed to be having a normal conversation. My head was spinning.
“The general does something right,” Max kicked some debris out of her way. She pulled a large box from another cabinet and pulled out a replacement light. She climbed up on a med table and put it into a slot in the ceiling. The room was immediately flooded with white light. I had to shield my eyes for a moment to adjust.
“Well go get her,” she pointed to the door. One of the men handed his flare to the other and then picked up a med board. I followed after them.
When we got the Sam she was completely uncovered and sitting up against a shelf.
“How?” The only other person was a woman I guessed would be Menton. She stood to salute me and stood at least a head taller than me. I looked at the large chunks of cement that had been covering Sam and asked again, “How?”
“Augmented,” Sam whispered. Then to Menton she said, “Doesn’t remember,” and nodded slightly in my direction.
Menton was still standing at attention. “At ease,” I finally told her.
Menton reached to pick up Sam but one of the men stopped her.
“Max wants us to use the board,” he told her and she stepped away.
“You are like Paul,” I commented more to myself than to Menton. “I mean Peadar.”
What I imagine was generally a very stoic grimace briefly reflected a flash of emotion.
“Like Peadar was,” she commented.
“Is,” I corrected her. “He’s not entirely himself upstairs, but he’s still an ox.”
Forgetting herself for a moment, Menton grabbed me shoulders. “Peadar is alive?” Then catching herself, she dropped to her knees and apologized. I lifted her chin so she would look at me again.
“Peadar is alive. At least I think he is. I am not clear on what is going on. I just saw him yesterday. Or today. I am not clear on that either.”
The men had Sam loaded up and we followed them back to the med center.
“Tell me about Plax,” I requested of Menton while Max was working on Sam.
I could see the rage in her face. “What do you want to know?”
She looked at me confused.
“Something happened. I’m having trouble remembering things.”
“Reconditioning?” she asked.
“I think so.”
She nodded slightly.
“Plax are vermin,” she began. “They destroyed our planet and work to destroy us.”
“They are exterminating us?”
“Not all of us,” she answered. “We are a novelty to them. They are playing with us.”
“Playing? The creature I just saw did not appear to be playing.”
“No, it probably would have killed you,” she said matter-of-factly. “But death is not always the end.”
“No?” That could not be right.
“I saw Peadar die,” she told me. “Held his head in my hands while he breathed his last breath. Now you tell me you saw him only yesterday.”
“How can that be?”
“No one knows.” She shrugged.
“Did I die?” I wanted to make sense of what was happening.
“We thought so,” Menton said. “But here you are. No one has ever come back here.”
Max had come up behind me.
“Plax hate light. We have fortified this area. They will not be back tonight. You need to rest.”
She pressed something against my neck and I collapsed before I could object.
A second later I opened my eyes. I was back in my bed in the compound. Gregg was sitting on the bed next to me and Vann and Todd were standing nearby. I was covered in sweat.
“He is sick,” Vann commented. “Take him to the core.”
I wanted to jump up and run. Gregg pressed something against my neck and there was darkness again.
That’s it for this week. I would love your feedback. Please share a comment. Enjoy!