My apologies for this one being posted a bit later than usual today. It's been bonkers here at the England household this week, and I wanted to have the audio version ready at the same time this written version went live. Editing it turned out more complicated than I'd expected.
As he opened the car door, there was a loud blast nearby. Agent Lee ducked and crouched on reflex as screams rose up in the general vicinity of what he supposed was an explosion.
He stood back up and craned his neck to see what’d happened. A plume of dust and smoke coiled from the side of a high-rise in downtown.
“It looks like the Techmedia building,” said Agent DuBois.
Lee looked across the car’s roof to where his partner stood at the driver’s side door. Her lips where pursed as she strained to make out details from a couple blocks away. “You think it was our guys?” he asked.
“We did trace them to this general area,” she said. DuBois’ brow furrowed. “But it doesn’t fit their M.O.”
“They could have decided to up the ante, or things went sideways.”
“Point,” DuBois agreed.
She shut her door, and she locked the vehicle once Lee did the same. The two took off at a run toward the explosion. Lee called it in and sent a request for back up as they ran.
The first rush of evacuees cleared the building as the agents arrived on scene. Lee and DuBois flashed their badges as they ran by staff security. Pushing past the flow of terrified workers still making their way out slowed them down once they entered the stairwell.
DuBois and Lee were panting and sweating by the time they reached the twenty-seventh floor. Dust and who knew what else lingered in the air, making them cough as they reached the landing.
“What was that?” said a feminine voice from the other side of the door.
“Someone coughed,” came the irritated response. “We’ve all been hacking since the kid goofed. You ought to be used to it now.”
“It sounded human,” the first protested.
“So what if it is?”
Lee nudged DuBois’ shoulder. “Did she just say human like she isn’t one?” he whispered.
DuBois nodded, looking shaken but determined as she shrugged. “Delusional or not, they’re still thieves and terrorists now, I suppose,” she whispered back.
She nodded toward the door separating them from the group of technology thieves they’d been tracking for weeks and pulled her sidearm. Lee signaled his understanding and did the same before they slammed the door.
“Federal agents,” DuBois announced as the door swung open, and she trained her gun on the first suspect.
Lee almost lost his grip on his in shock as they found the entire group of ten instead of the two lookouts they’d expected. Yet their numbers weren’t what stunned him the most. That honor went to the fact at least a couple of them indeed weren’t human. The creatures working on some piece of tech he couldn’t identify looked more like some kind of squid.
One of the cephalopod creatures’ form rippled and morphed into the appearance of a man with his arms raised. “Please,” it said. “We mean you no harm. We just want to go home.”
Each story in this series is 500 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first line generator like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
You can also find the audio version of this story over on my YouTube channel.
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A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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