Red Dune

Here it is, the first short story of 2018 – Red Dune! This short is based on the image below. The image is created by Mister Artorias, I highly encourage you to check out his other work in the links below.

Be sure to check back next Monday for another story!

I want to give special thanks to the patrons who’ve supported me thus far:

Hypermice, Sean Young, and Mister Artorias

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Now, please enjoy the story and let me know what you think! Check back next Monday for another free story.

***

 Red Dune

The rover darted across the sand at a dangerous speed. The sun behind lighting his path, Gene leaned back in the chair, cigarette between his lips with the spark long since blown out from the rush of wind. One hand on the steering wheel, he ran his other through his slick hair. The plains extended before him glowed a bright orange. The smell of the dry sand hung thick in the air. The roaring engine of the rover filled his ears.

Taking hold of a picture taped to the dashboard, he brought it close. A blonde-haired woman with a beaming smile hugging her arms around a kid with shaggy hair standing in front of her. He exhaled slowly before he shoved the picture into an inside pocket of his heavy brown coat. He continued to gnaw on the cigarette in his mouth, its unpleasant but comfortable taste on his tongue.

He adjusted his spectacles, spotting the billows of smoke in the distance. The source of the smoke emitting from towering smokestacks came into view. The structures making up the base of the smokestacks were plain, dirtied by the constant blowing sand. He spotted the flickers of a beam of white light from the first facility, its beam quickly vanished after identifying the tag along the top of the rover.

His vehicle passed by several of the structures, each one mirroring the other. At the top of a low sloping hill was the central facility. Its size dwarfed over the rest, its smoke rising miles into the atmosphere. The towers lining its perimeter were constantly turning in scans of the surrounding dunes.

Easing his foot from the pedal, the rover glided towards the entrance of the facility. At the large gate, a panel slowly rose from the ground. Stopping the vehicle at the panel, he reached his hand out, keying in the code. Granted access, he drove the vehicle inside, passing through a tight metallic hallway towards a massive garage. Finding the spot marked for him, he pulled the rover in to park.

Gene reached into his pocket pulling out a lighter and flicked it opened, the small flame glowing brightly. He began to raise the lighter to the cigarette and paused to glance up at a stone pillar. On its surface was a sign indicating no smoking. “Right…” He huffed, closing the lighter and got out, his heavy boots stepped onto the cement floor.

Walking past a variety of industrial vehicles, he reached the elevator and took it. The heavy doors dragged open and closed. Pressing the button for the top floor, he leaned against the railing, undisturbed by the sudden shift of the cart, the metal rattled as it was lifted.

Stepping from the elevator, Gene sighed at the approaching figure. The cigarette rolled along his lips to the other side of his mouth, his fists clenched.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Gene.” The heavy-set, bald man said, the lab coat stained yellow in certain spots. He rubbed his thick hands together. “But I’m glad you were able to come into work so soon. There’s been an incident as you can imagine.”

“Of course,” Gene replied. He crossed his arms a scowl visible on his face, “There’s always incidents here, Rynall. You would think with how advanced this place is there’d be less.”

Rynall chuckled, “Yes, but as technology advances so do our subjects. It’s only natural that it’d be hard to contain them.” He turned around and began to shuffle down the dirty metal halls with walls that had once gleamed silver.

Huffing, Gene followed after the scientist. Doorways slid open in their twisting and turning path. Gene took it all in, his eyes unfazed by the windows giving views into testing chambers. Within some chambers, scientists studied and took apart a variety of strange creatures. Others held robots and engineering. Still others housed humans getting worked on. “What escaped this time?”

“Not escaped.”

“I’m only hired to catch or kill what escapes the walls of this facility. Nothing more.” Gene replied, pausing at an intersection as Rynall went left. He looked down the right with a frown. “Where are we going?”

“Like I said, it’s an incident. It’s in a different chamber then one you are used too. Come along, quickly.”

Turning, Gene caught up to the man with ease, his hand reaching out for Rynall’s shoulder to stop the man. “If this incident has nothing to do with an escape subject, then I’m leaving. I don’t get paid for anything else.”

“It’s a psychic. We can’t get control of it and we believe you could.”

“Get control?” Gene took a step back, “Are you crazy? You think I could get control?”

“Yes. Now, let’s continue.”

“No.”

Rynall rubbed his sweaty forehead, “Fine, fine.” He reached for a handkerchief, brushing it across his forehead. “I implore you to not get angry but instead cooperate. This psychic is our latest and I must remind you the laws of the government. Your cooperation is very important, and I highly suggest you act as such, otherwise there could be issues.”

Gene frowned, “What are you talking about?”

“It’d be easier for me to show you. Now, come along.” He turned and swiftly went down the hall. He glanced back to make sure Gene was following and led the man around several more corners before reaching a console. There he pushed his hand up against its screen and waited for the accepting sound to ring. Satisfied, he entered a dark room. Beckoned for Gene to come inside, he closed the door behind them and rushed over to the waiting console. The twinkle of lights on the console glowed brightly in the darkness.

“What is this place?” Gene asked, standing by the entrance, unmoved.

“It is our newest viewing room of a testing chamber. Outfitted with the latest equipment.” He replied, stuffing his hand into his pockets, a jingle of sound filling the air before he produced a card, sliding it into a slot on the console, which caused the room to brighten. He pressed several buttons along the console before straightening himself. “Come close, you need to see what you’ll be working with. Also, a reminder to cooperate!”

“Yea,” He grumbled, walking over to stand at the edge of the viewport. Through the thick panel screen, he saw a young kid at the center of a clean white room. His eyes widened, and fists clenched. The cigarette fell from his parted lips. “What the hell is this?”

“Relax, Gene.” Rynall said folding his hands behind his back. “Trust me I’m not particularly happy about it either.”

“Not happy? Don’t give me that crap, you only care about your damn science!” Gene spat, jabbing a finger towards Rynall.

Brushing The finger away, Rynall stared up at Gene with focused eyes. “I suppose maybe I don’t care. Either way, the law found him with powers and as such he now falls under my jurisdiction. I tried working with him and have come up short so far. I need your help, and I’d advise you to assist me otherwise your contract will be terminated or worse.”

“You want me to help you experiment on my son!” He ground his teeth. “Are you insane? I’ll never do such a thing! Now free him!”

Rynall sighed and walked over to the console, pressing another button along its surface. “Honestly I mean no ill will to you. The accident was horrifying, but you are alive. You may think that boy in there is your son. That maybe you can at least get part of what you lost back. You’d be dead wrong in thinking that.” Rynall faced Gene, “I give you a final chance to cooperate.”

The sound of a sliding door caught Gene’s attention. Standing in the doorway were two armored soldiers, rifles resting in their hands.

“You want me to cooperate? Like hell I will!” He yelled, reaching into his coat and pulled free the heavy pistol. Pulling the trigger, the blast filled the room with a loud explosion. Red smoke buffed out of the revolving chamber of the revolver as two bullets pierced the head of both guards.

“Have you gone mad Gene? You can’t face the enti—” Rynall began before getting interrupted with a gaping hole through his face. His body was knocked into the wall before he slumped down, blood spilling out across his fat belly.

“Maybe.” Gene replied and turned the pistol to the viewport, blasting three holes through it and kicked the cracking glass. Shards rained around him as he jumped into the chamber. He knelt beside the boy who looked up with confused blue eyes. “Are you okay, Alex?”

Alex moved his lips, but no words came from his mouth. Tears welled up in the corner of his eyes and he hugged Gene.

“I’m happy to see you, you’re safe with me.” He said softly, running a hand through the boy’s shaggy blond hair. “Can you walk?”

Alex nodded his head.

“Good,” Gene said and stood up. He reached along his belt, finding the thick shelled bullets. Sliding them into the chambers of the revolver. Holstering the pistol, he picked up Alex. “Reach for the ledge above, careful of the glass.

Doing as told, Alex found a safe spot and climbed. He glanced down towards Gene with fearful eyes.

“It’s alright, back up.” Gene waited for the boy to move away from the ledge before jumping up. Standing he un-holstered the pistol and offered his free hand for Alex. “Ready?”

Placing his small hand into the palm of Gene’s he looked up and nodded his head.

Coming to the doorway, Gene pulled off a helmet of one of the men, bringing it close to his ears to hear radio chatter beginning to rise. “They’re realizing the two are dead. We got to move fast or else we’ll be swarmed.”

Entering the hallway, Gene led Alex through the halls, running as fast as he could, slowed down by the short legs of the boy. His eyes darted around corners, revolver at the ready.

A siren began to echo, the fluorescent lines dimming as a red glow took over the halls.

Turning down another corner, Gene halted and pulled back as the corner of the wall became chipped and dented. Waiting for a pause in the gunfire, Gene leaned over and fired two quick shots. One bullet catching the guard at the end of the hall through the skull. Another hitting his hip, spinning the guard about as shrapnel from the bullet hit the stomach of a second guard. The second guard fell back from the blast, the armor dented into his stomach.

Pulling Alex past the injured guard, he reached a doorway, hearing footsteps on the other side. There he paused, waiting for it to open as two guards stepped through. Aiming at the head of one soldier, the bullet pierced cleanly through. Shoving the guard into the other, he fired a second shot into the flailing guard beneath.

A tug on his coat from Alex brought his attention back to the front where he saw a third guard raising his rifle. Gene was faster, the revolver firing off its last two rounds.

Chambering the revolver with fresh rounds, he led Alex to the elevator and slammed his fist against the button. The doors clattering open a moment later.

Stepping within, Gene took several deep breathes. Pulling Alex behind his back, Gene raised the barrel of the revolver to the doorway and waited expectantly.

The door creaked open to reveal the garage beyond. Seeing no immediate danger, Gene rushed over to the waiting rover. Helping Alex into the passenger seat, he stepped into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition. The engine roared to life. Foot slamming on the gas, the rover lurched forward. His hands spun the steering wheel with ease, bringing the agile rover through the garage, towards the exit.

Coming out of another elevator, four guards rushed out with rifles raised. Their bullets hit against the rover’s panels harmlessly as he sped past.

Spotting the garage’s doorway closed in the distance, he reached for a gear along the vehicle’s dashboard. A moment later a barrel on top of the rover fired out a bolt of red that slammed into the garage. The red plasma spread across the surface before exploding it outward. Fire and smoke licked at the rover as it leapt through the opening and into the dusty air. They were heading for the setting sun in the distance.

“Almost home free, Alex, just hold tight.” Gene said, looking over at the kid who was gripping the chair’s armrests tightly.

Glancing in the mirror on the side of the rover he spotted the dust trails kicked up by three chasing vehicle. Reaching for the gear again, he twisted it and pressed several buttons surrounding it. The whirring sound of the barrel turning echoed over the roaring engine. A screen revealed itself above his dashboard with a crosshair. Aiming the sights on one of chasing dust clouds, he pushed in the gear.

The whirring stopped to become replaced by the sudden zap and then just the engine of the rover. he grinned at the flash of the red filling the cloud on the screen. The dust puffed outward as an explosion followed then changed to black smoke of a wreckage.

He began to turn the gear again, the crosshair on the screen shifting to another cloud that was coming closer to reveal the details of a blocky-shaped rover.

Centering the crosshairs, he let out a curse as he spotted a flash of light out of the corner of his eyes from the mirror. Twisting the wheel, the rover turned hard to the right. Bullets from one of the chasing rovers rained down where the rover had been a moment before.

Looking in his mirrors, he spotted the second chasing rover, its own barrel aiming for him. Twisting the wheel again, the rover spun around to face the chaser. “Cover your ears, Alex!” He yelled and brought the revolver around to cross in front of Alex.

Gene grinned at the driver of the other rover who realized he was too close to fire his own weapon. Pulling the trigger at the right moment, the revolver boomed over the engine.

Looking out the right mirror, Gene saw the rover twist back and forth out of control before flipping over. His smile changed to a scowl as he saw a third rover speed into view, its barrel lighting up.

Twisting the wheel to the left, an explosion filled the air, his body tumbling about.

Shaking his head, a ringing filled his senses. Gene blinked, clearing the dust from his eyes. Dragging himself out, he saw the third rover go speeding by. “Damn it…” He muttered.

He reached his hand back into the wreckage. “Alex!” He cried. Feeling a comforting grip, he began to pull. He smiled at the dust covered face of the boy crawling from the wreckage, unharmed save for a scratch across his cheek. “Let’s move!” He said pulling the boy to his feet.

Limping away from the rover, Gene spotted the third rover coming back its barrel lighting up.

He reached for the revolver and came up empty. Looking back at the wreckage his eyes widened. “Cra—” He began before flying back at the concussive blast fired from the third rover.

Moaning in pain, he sat up and looked about. A fire engulfed his rover, black smoke floating up. His eyes scanning the horizon and spotted the third rover beginning to circle back. Gene grit his teeth and looked over to see Alex slowly sitting up. “Are you okay?”

Alex looked up and nodded. He nervously rubbed his hands together and looked out at the approaching danger.

“Yes, it’s coming back. I have an idea though, we need to get by the fire and hide.” Gene said starting to crawl towards the fire. He paused at Alex who stood his ground. “Alex?” He said, looking on with a confused look. “I don’t have a weapon, we have to hide otherwise the driver will see us.”

Closing his eyes, Alex lifted his hands.

Brow raised, Gene watched the focused boy. “Alex?” He asked.

A loud crack burst into the air. Gene watched the rover get lifted into the air, its wheels turning helplessly. A moment later the rover was twisted and squeezed into a tight box that crashed back down into the sand, discarded.

“Are you alright?”

The boy looked over with a tired smile.

Gene returned the smile and stumbled to his feet. Shaking his coat of sand, he reached into his pocket for a lighter and a fresh cigarette. Lighting it he took a strong pull of the cigarette, savoring the feel. He looked down at Alex who was hugging him tightly. He wrapped his free hand around the back of the boy’s head, comforting him. He scanned the horizon, observing the nearby smokestacks, further beyond the setting sun’s rays turning the orange sand into a deep red.

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