I wrote the following this week for a writing group exercise on fiction writing. The prompt was the four words in the title of this post, and the story had to contain each of the ten words I’ve bolded below. As I don’t feel inspired to develop it further (for now anyway), I’ll treat it as flash fiction.
Once in, the dark is more than an absence of light. The field where Gomez and I have landed may look barren, like a corn field after a harvest, but I can feel life teeming around me, the seeming void pulsating with energy, vibrant as an ocean. No heat source appears on my infrared goggles, which I’ve learned in my years in the corps is a sign that trouble is ahead. I check that my TR-400 is energized, and remove the safety lock.
“Captain?” Gomez is whispering for some reason. The night vision of the average Creature is far superior to its hearing; if any cluster of Creatures is within seeing distance, they would have found us already. We would also know we’d been detected immediately, as their aggression is even greater than their eyesight.
I respond in an overly loud voice, my way of reminding her that maintaining silence is not protocol. “You picking up anything?”
Gomez looks at her pad, and shakes her head. “No Creatures within 10 kilometers, sir. But that doesn’t make sense. Their attack on the Moisture Farmers was just an hour ago.”
“They’re learning,” I tell her. “They figured out how soon the corps will respond, and that they can’t overwhelm us. They don’t wait for their next victims like they used to.”
“I thought they couldn’t communicate.”
“Yeah, we all thought that. Not the first time we’ve been wrong about the Creatures.”
Gomez pulls up the topo on her pad, and we identify a small hill a few hundred meters to our right, a perfect spot for an overlook. I remind Gomez to walk over, even if her pad picks up Creatures, as they’ll be able to see us better if we dash. Heat lightning colors the dark dome above us like a paint brush, reminding me of an Aurora Borealis from Earth.
The lightning ebbs as we ascend a pile of rocks that form a natural bridge to the overlook. I call in our position to the overhead transport, and Gomez confirms her pad still shows no Creatures in range. Our CO reminds us to light a flare as soon as we suspect any trouble. After acknowledging the order, I tell Gomez to engage the safety lock on her TR-400.
“That’s not protocol,” Gomez reminds me. “We’re not supposed to engage our safeties during a field mission.”
“The pad gives us at least a minute warning if any Creature approaches,” I tell her. “I’ve been in enough fights with these things to know your TR-400 will need as much battery as possible. Engaging the safety saves power.”
Gomez doesn’t seem convinced, but being smart enough to realize I’ve been on many more of these missions than she has, she engages the safety. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to ask her why she asked to join my squad. If she wanted to fight, there’s squads that see much more action than ours, and if she wanted to be a face in a safe lineup there’s plenty of other outposts she could have gone. My squad operates in a land that lies somewhere between insanity and ennui; I’ve never been sure which I’d prefer.
Alerts illuminate Gomez’s pad. She looks at it and frowns; she then shakes it in frustration. “Sensors picking up Creatures?” I ask.
Gomez looks up at me, and shakes her head. “No Creatures, or any life form. Just… it doesn’t make sense, but a TR-400 was just activated two kilometers to the northeast. And it’s headed towards our position.”
Maybe someday I’ll give the Captain a name, and let him and Gomez find out what’s powering up that TR-400…