This is the eighth scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story in ten scenes.
I will post the entire story one scene at a time each Friday.
I hope you enjoy A Taste of Earth, and I would love to hear from you.
Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California
“The passive scans have revealed no new data,” General Jensen announced to the observers who had just taken their seats. “The current damage to our climate does not allow for leisure, so we are forced to commence with more intrusive tests….”
As the general continued, Irene tapped Dipesh’s arm and pointed towards the monitor. It showed a temperature spike in Hachiman.
“Since this exposes us to a higher level of potential danger,” the general continued, “we are asking all but the most essential personnel to relocate to our remote observation facility. We have a bus for you outside, so if you will come with me.”
Only half of the observers were watching the general; the other half murmured about the temperature change. Two of the scientists still in the lab grabbed extra sensors to localize the change. Several people stood in front of Dipesh and he lost view of the lab. When he stood, he thought he saw Hachiman move. He jumped out of his seat and over to the window for a better look. The general had stopped speaking, and a rumble of confusion filled the viewing area.
Hachiman’s two cone-shaped appendages seemed to droop as if melting. A second later, they froze in the form of insect legs. They tapped the floor several times rapidly, and with each tap it left a large drop of metallic liquid that reformed into inch-long beetle shapes that scurried across the floor. In terror, the lab technicians flattened themselves against the wall or jumped up on tables, not trusting the safety of their bio-suits. One lab guard activated the security alarm, and they both aimed what looked like M16s at Hachiman.
Then several things happened at once. An ear-splitting siren screeched overhead. Halogen emergency lamps flooded all rooms with brilliant blue-white light. At the other end of the observation area, security guards were yelling evacuation orders. Dipesh and John took a step closer to the lab window, while Irene and David shuffled off with the other observers towards the main exit. Two other scientists rushed into the lab from the chemical showers, still dripping with disinfectant. Several beetles scurried over their feet, through the open doors, and into the showers. Other beetles scattered throughout the lab along corners as if trying to find a way out. They climbed the walls and viewing window, and at least two of these started boring into the glass right in front of Dipesh. They secreted a gelatin that gave their claw-like legs purchase on the smooth glass. The ends of the legs spun like drill bits and the gelatin acted like acid. It took less than a second for them to punch a hole in the tempered glass. Pressurized air streamed through around the beetles from the cavity of the double paned glass. Dipesh didn’t realize until then that the lab was kept at a lower air pressure to keep contamination in. The legs slid through and unfolded like a flower blossom, carrying the beetles’ body through with them.
John grabbed his arm and said, “Now’s a good time to run.”
Dipesh started to follow the crowd, but they had already jammed the main exit. He turned and noticed an emergency exit down the hall to his left that no one had taken. He urged John to follow. They gave the lab a final glance and saw a humanoid form where Hachiman had lain. It had long, spidery fingers and a sloped-back forehead, but retained its marbled copper-brass color.
The image disappeared from his view as he ran down the hall. He almost reached the exit when, through a door to their right marked “Outer Dressing Room,” scurried several beetles.
Dipesh hated cockroaches. He always had, ever since he lived in a small apartment in Los Angeles infested with them. He would find them in his cereal box in the morning, under the bathroom sink when he needed to fetch a new roll of toilet paper, and in his bedroom one day when he forgot he had stashed snacks under his bed. They even snuck into his nightmares, every one of his nightmares. He hated them, and was convinced that hell was infested with them.
Dipesh and John turned back the way they came.
The crowd at the main exit had thinned but still blocked it. David was one of the last in line. Several beetles threaded between idle feet, prompting screams. At least two people tried to do the most sensible thing, squash them. As soon as they lifted their feet, they realized it was not so sensible because the beetles moved on undamaged, and a few of them opened their wings and flew out the door.
_________________________________The entire text is currently discounted: Free. If you would like the entire story as a PDF, click here: A Taste of Earth – Justin Tyme. For ebook format Amazon, visit: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kubo, Smashwords, and others. Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme