Science Fiction

Stepping out

Everything was blue. It was like a whiteout blizzard, only blue she marveled as she stared out a small window.

And it wasn’t even like it was shades of blue. Everything, all around her, was the blue of the sky. It was really pretty, actually, but it was so same everywhere. This could get disorienting in a hurry, she thought, as she placed a hand to her forehead hoping that would make the room stop spinning.

She noticed she wasn’t breathing when things began to gray out. Gray…hey, at least it wasn’t blue, she thought, and laughed a little too harshly. Her laughter sounding maniacal even to her. She turned away from the window and shivered. Not from the cold, well some from the cold. Rather the perception of cold. She was inside, safe, where it was relatively warm. Outside, well outside was another matter altogether, as she turned back to look again.

Things began to make more sense as the blueness of everything started to crystallize into shapes, colors, and sounds. Fat snowflakes were falling, and the ground was covered in white, but it was the sounds that really got her attention. The whooshing and whistling of things flying overhead, gunfire, shouts of men, and screams. There were so many screams, she covered her ears and sunk to the floor; the tears flowed from her eyes. What was she doing here? What on Earth was she doing here?

Calming herself, she took several deep breaths. It didn’t stop the sounds coming from outside, but it did help to slow her heartbeat and allow her to gather her thoughts.

She’d been the one, when had it been? A week ago? A year? Right now, time didn’t seem important as she tried to recall the sequence of events that landed her here and now. She’d been the one to insist on being here, so she only had herself to blame. Everyone had tried to talk her out of it. “You do NOT want to go,” her boss, Reggie Walker, had said, “trust me, Amy, you do not want to go.” Stubbornly she’d replied, “Of course I do, sir, it’s my job.” He’d only shook his head and grinned as he replied, “Well, you are up next on the roster.” as he closed his laptop and stood up, signaling their meeting was over. “Don’t you worry, sir, I will be just fine.”, she said as he walked her to the door. But as it closed behind her, she wasn’t so sure. She was sure, however, that she wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity.

And so here she was, and she had a job to do. A job she didn’t think she could do. Fear gripped at her as a whistling sound overhead signaled something deadly incoming. Would it land on her?  Would the walls hold? Granted the old girl seemed sturdy enough, but did she really want to stake her life on it? She already knew the answer to that, even before she heard herself mumble “No, no I don’t. But I have to.” The thud outside, followed by a slightly muffled but very close explosion, seemed to put a period to the end of her statement. That one, at least, had missed her. As she stood on shaky legs she wondered if the next one would. Or the one after that.

A claxon sounded, and she knew immediately there was something very wrong. It looked like there’d been a slight breach, and her protected environment had a problem. Running to the locker on the wall, she found what she needed and affected a quick repair. She silenced the alarm and waited to see if it would activate again signaling another problem. It didn’t and she sat down in a seat to think about what came next. 

Her rucksack lay at her feet, and she reached over to rummage through it. Digital camera, check. Notebook and pen, check. Personal med kit complete with comprehensive bio-scanner and injectable nanites, check. Water bottle, check. Assorted energy bars, check. Instant fire kit, check. Thinking how cold it might be out there, she grabbed an insulated parka-pack from one of the storage bins on the wall and shoved it inside the pocket of her utility pants. She still found it incredible how something the size of a deck of cards could be unfolded, shaken out, and in a few seconds it became the warmest coat invented to date in 2145. A one-size-fits-all defense against temperatures as low as -120 degrees Fahrenheit.

She snapped the rucksack closed. Satisfied she had everything she needed, she set it down in front of her again. Looking around the small room, her eyes fell on the tiny stove in the corner and she wondered if there was time for a quick, hot, cup of cocoa. Just thinking about it made her mouth water, and she decided she was going to make time for that cocoa. In the back of her mind she knew she was stalling. She knew she was putting off the inevitable. But, she didn’t care. She wanted that cocoa, dammit, and she was going to have it.

Jumping up, she walked over to the stove, grabbed a small pot from next to it, and filled it with water from the jug hanging on the wall. The stove, a handheld convection single burner, came to life with the flick of a switch and she set the pot of water on it to heat. She pulled a cube of cocoa out of another box on the wall, plopped it into the water and waited. Soon, the sweet and intoxicating scent of hot cocoa filled the room and filled her nostrils.  Pouring the warm concoction into her favorite mug, she contemplated eating something too. She’d had a good meal that morning, but that’d been many hours ago and her rumbling stomach told her it was time to eat again.  

She stood up and looked through the cabinet that held the cocoa cubes for something suitable. She really hated these tasteless MREs she thought as she read the plain black lettering on one that read SPAGHETTI W/PROTEIN, but they provided needed calories and fuel. She knew she would be expending a lot of energy very soon, so she grabbed the box off the shelf. Placing the box on the countertop nearby she took the small package out of it and pulled a tab on the side to activate the heating element. One minute later she pulled the mylar off the top of her meal and the steamy scent of SPAGHETTI W/PROTEIN filled her nostrils. Her stomach grumbled, and she grabbed a spork, sat down and began to greedily consume her dinner. The protein was in the form of little clusters, and it was supposed to taste like beef, but Amy wouldn’t know if it did or not. She’d never had actual meat of any kind. Meat was something only a very select few could afford to buy these days, and most people got their protein artificially. Just like they got a lot of their fruits and vegetables from genetically enhanced plant operations run by large conglomerates. It made those things pretty affordable, at least, and Amy loved her oranges, apples, and bananas.

She finished her meal, disposed of her waste, and once again took stock of her situation. Her thin one-piece utility suit—she stopped and listened as another whistling sound signaled an incoming threat. BOOM! This time Amy was knocked off her feet as dust, debris, and pieces of insulation or something rained down on her. Alarm bells rang, but the explosion had been so loud they sounded far off and tinny to her ears. She could barely make out through the haze the numerous lights on the control board telling her that she’d taken a direct hit that time.

“Shit!” she yelled, scrambling to her feet, “shit, shit, shit!” Getting to the panel, she had to first make certain that the system keeping her from being seen by those outside was holding. Thank the gods it was! Next she quickly scanned through the messages scrolling in hologram above the panel. Mostly minor systems were offline and within a few moments she had everything back online and working properly. That was too close, she thought, as she sank back in the chair to catch her breath.

Once again, she heard shouting and screams from outside. Did this never end? Do they ever take a break? Get tired? Apparently not, she concluded, as another whistling – this time from farther away – signaled another explosion, more gunfire, more shouting, more moans and screams. It was barbaric, but it was why she was here. And it was time to get to work.

Dusting off her clothing, and grabbing the rucksack, Dr. Amy Richards opened the hatch of her extraordinary (for the time she was in) machine, and stepped onto the frozen surface of the ground in the Ardennes forest of January 3, 1945.

January 21, 2021 19:08

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