The blog is back in action. This week is a quick short story for Chuck Wendig's Friday Flash Fiction Challenge. You can go to his site to see what the challenge was for this, it was pretty open-ended this week. What sprang from my mind was... well it was kinda bad. As far as short stories go, this one will never win a Hugo. But I had fun writing it, and sometimes it's really a reward in itself to just let yourself write something terrible. So without further ado, here is “The Fire of the Gods”
Sully slammed the door to the crew cabin harder enough to make Eric look up from his work. “I swear this damned planet is getting colder. I thought that 'forming was only supposed to take ten years.”
Eric removed his glasses, and stared at his disgruntled companion. “Terraforming on most planets only takes about ten years. If you read up on the process, you would know that sometimes it can take as long as twenty years to be habitable. And if you looked at the monthly therm charts, you would see that we've raised the median temperature almost three degrees kelvin.”
“Helluva lotta good it does me. You get to sit in here all day and punch on your screens and make your calibrations and charts. It's my ass that has to go out there and keep this shit running. Do you know how much of a pain in the ass it is to change out a nitrogen coupler in this temperature? I'm gonna lose a finger from frostbite one of these days. Pardon me saying so, but three measly degrees in eight years hardly sounds like progress.” Sully kicked off his shoes and plopped down on his bunk. As soon as his eyes closed, there was a high-pitch whining, followed by the lights flickering. “Damn it to hell,” he sighed, “and of course the genny picks now to start kicking again. Wake me up in a half hour, it should keep up for at least that long.”
Eric returned to his screen, putting in his earplugs. “If that generator dies, we'll both be popsicles.” he muttered.
Sully flipped his eyes open, glancing at Eric. “I'll be the popsicle, doc. You're already the stick up my ass.” With that, he rolled over and went to sleep.
“Well, doc, what the hell is this?” By Eric's count, Sully had only been gone five minutes, and the generator had shortly hummed right back to life. In his outstretched hand, Sully held a datacube. Eric gingerly plucked it from his glove, turning it over, looking for damage. It was as cold as ice, and steamed the air lightly as it warmed in his hands.
“It's... well it's one of ours. I thought I had lost it back in the last cycle. Not a big enough deal to worry about, just a redundant backup.” Eric adjusted his glasses back on the bridge of his nose, and set the cube into his reader.
“Do you want to explain what in the icy fuck it was doing jammed into the rotor on the genny?” Sully sat back on his bunk, peeling off his coldsuit.
“My god...” Eric mumbled, “this... what is this?” He began tapping rapidly at the screen, working with a fury. Finally Sully was curious enough to stand over his shoulder. “Do you recognize these writings?” Eric asked, continuing to flip through slides, images covered in strange scribblings with many crude illustrations.
“Yeah, I saw some back on Nova 6 when we 'formed that one. It's been on a couple dozen planets if I recall. Belongs to them 'proto-whatsits.' What about it?”
Eric snorted derisively. “Proto-Siriuns. As far as any records have shown, they died out about 20,000 years ago.”
“Yeah, what of 'em?”
“This is on the damned datacube! They're here, and they're trying to talk to us!” The cabin suddenly shuddered, knocking some papers and random equipment on the floor. Sully cursed under his breath, but Eric wasn't phased. “There's lot's of information here, drawings of us, of the 'former, and... dammit, this translation isn't working fast enough!”
Sully had stopped paying attention, and was pulling his coldsuit back on. “Look's like the 'former's at it again. This is bad, it shouldn't shake like that.” It was Eric's outburst of expletives that stopped him at the door.
“Sully! The Fire, it's here!” If Eric had been working fast before, his pace was becoming outright violent.
“The hell are you on about now?” Sully stormed over, but was quickly knocked to his knees by another quake.
“The Fire! All the ruins, everything we've found on the other planets, it all said the Protos were preparing for The Fire, a demon, fighting so it wouldn't destroy them. We always thought it was just their religion, but... this data, these writings... they're here. It says this is where The Fire came from. This is where they stopped it. They're still here, and we're melting the ice...” Another quake rocked the cabin, this time sending both men to the ground. Eric ran over to Sully, shaking him by the shoulders. “Sully, this is why it's been taking so long to warm. They've been fighting us, trying to keep it frozen. But it's too late now. We've warmed it too much. We have to get out of here.”
Sully shoved him away, getting back on his feet. “The hell you say? I ain't cuttin' and runnin' just 'cause you got some pretty pictures and fairytales. Now I gotta go see what's goin' on with the-” This time, when the cabin shook, the walls and roof tore open. The sub-zero air began rushing in, sending snow and papers dancing around. As if by instinct, Eric and Sully backed into the corner together, huddling for warmth.
Within moments, the air began to warm quickly, and the wind subsided. The quaking was constant now, and getting stronger by the second. As if from nowhere, a gout of flame tore the cabin in half. It looked like a wall, Eric thought, flowing like lava... but flowing up. The heat was becoming unbearable when the fire simply stopped.
Eric sat stunned, staring at the gaping hole where the other end of the cabin had been moments before. “God... God forgive us. What have we done?”
Sully turned his gaze the same direction, and he finally understood. There, in the distance, a terrible, twisted creature, its numerous wings raining liquid flame down with every beat. “Well...” Sully pulled a twisted pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, lit one, and took a long, slow drag. “Shit.”