A Story by Charles Painter

A branch of the government tries to cover up a terrible secret, but unforeseen consequences follow.

    The tall figure darted across a burning landscape; the forest was ablaze with color and sound. A tree reached the end of it’s endurance and fell with a giant crack! Sparks flew high into the air. The figure continued it’s dart through the flaming forest, the woods white with flames. The sky was black with ash and the heat was crushing. It paused in its fleeing and checked two paths ahead of it. None looked inviting. It chose the right and kept moving. Lightning struck the ground ahead of him and he dropped to the ground. The explosion of thunder assaulted the creature, pressing it prone into the ground. The figure lay there for a moment, stunned by the power of nature. Another tree fell; the figure got up again.

    “Did we get it yet?” asked Lieutenant Chapman, his eyes surveying the flaming landscape before him. He stood aloft in the control room that towered above the forest. He could see all of it, the circular wall that contained it and the fire that burned within it. “Well? Did we?”

    “We lost visual on the sector EI-08’s in, sir. There was a lightning strike near the camera and it may have malfunctioned due to a power surge,” came the voice of Petty Officer Colbert. He stared directly into his computer’s monitor and rapidly punched a series of access codes into his terminal. “Should we intensify, sir?”

    Chapman chewed his lower lip thoughtfully and nodded. “Bring her up ten percent.”

    The figure continued it’s daring escapade through the blazing woodland, it nimbly leaped over falling trees. The sleek black coating of it’s exoskeleton shined black and orange in the flames. There was a sudden high-pitched whistle sound that stopped it in it’s tracks, and the sky lit up. Flames shot from the tall tower in the middle of the forest and coated the tops of the trees. The figure dropped again, fearful of being burned to death by the hellish realm above it. The flames ceased in the sky, but the forest burned even hotter. The figure took off again, slowed by the monstrous heat.

    “If the thing ain’t cooked by now it won’t ever be,” Lieutenant Chapman muttered under it’s breath. “What we need is a big magnifying lens to cook it with. You ever do that Petty Officer? Cook ants with a magnifying glass?”

    “No sir,” replied Petty Officer Colbert. “I thought it was... cruel, I guess.”

    “Well, I could care less about cruel now. Orders are orders. Get me a lookout on Sector V now.”

    The figure moved along, battered and exhausted by the flames around it. Flying up was suicide. It’d be dead before he got 20 feet off the air. It kept moving to a nearby river. Water! Perhaps the water would serve as a respite from the flames. The closer the creature got to the water the more it began to see. There was something on the water, a shiny, colored liquid coated the top of it. A branch fell from the tree. The river burst into flames.

    The figure was trapped. In front of it was a wall of fire, behind it was an oven. It dropped to it’s knees and let out a screech of dismay. The sound caused nearby glass to crack, and the feed on the camera to be lost.

    “I think we have it,” Colbert stated. “It’s trapped.”

    “Trapped in Sector V? Good. Fire Huntsman II missiles to Colbert’s coordinates, on my mark!” shouted Lieutenant Chapman. He gave the mark and the missiles launched. On screen, a diagram showing the missile’s trajectory and EI-08’s approximate location flashed.

    The figure stared into the black ash sky. The heat was causing it to slip away into an unconscious state of half reality. A star shot across the sky and stayed there. It grew. No. It was not a star. The figure leapt to it’s feet and took off towards the river. The flames rose high into the air, a wall of death and pain. Pain would have to be ignored, both ways meant death. It leapt into the river.

    The pain cooked it alive, or so it felt. The figure known as EI-08 ran through the flames, adrenaline pushed it through the white hot fire and to the other side. The missile followed close behind. Ahead was a fence, the electric barrier that had kept EI-08 from the world, from freedom. He ran straight to the fence and jumped to the left. The missile detonated.

    “Did we hit him?!” shouted Chapman.

    “I don’t know,” replied Colbert. “I’m getting a visual feed now!”

    The screen lit up in front of Chapman and showed flames and smoke. As it cleared, a large gaping hole appeared in the fence, and the insectoid body of EI-08 crawled through the hole into the outside world.   Chapman swallowed, but nothing moved down his throat.

    The elevator that lead to the top of the control room opened and a man in a black suit appeared. Lieutenant Chapman, Petty Officer Colbert, and all the other staff saluted. More men exited the elevator. They held submachine guns at the ready position.

    “Lieutenant Chapman, you have failed your assignment to detain and eliminate EI-08. In accordance to your lack of ability to follow orders, you are to be detached from service, effective immediately.

    Chapman’s hands shook by his side. He gritted his teeth and stood tall. A forced choke came from Colbert’s mouth. The machine guns opened fire.

    Far away, a large insect cried out into the night, a shout that shook all life in the deep woods. Blood-red fires rose in the distance.

© 2012 Charles Painter

Author's Note

Charles Painter
I have mixed feelings about this story; I both love it and look at it with a bit of downgaze. I truly enjoy reading this story, but there are a few glaring issues that stick out to me when I read. Tell me what you think.

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Added on November 30, 2012
Last Updated on November 30, 2012
Tags: sci-fi, science fiction, short story, fiction


Charles Painter
Charles Painter

Nowhere, RI

I'm a young writer working on getting where I want to be. Take a trip into my mind. more..


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