Smoke Wakes Up in a Strange Place

Smoke pushed a thick piece of sheet metal off his stomach.

Somewhere, something was burning. He tasted the fire in his mouth. Thick char.

He was lying on the ground. A concrete slab floor. His head pounded.

He was in an airplane hangar.

It was burning.

Half of the roof was gone, exposing trees and a blue sky filled with helicopters. Their whirring was so loud he couldn’t think.

He tried to step forward, but he tripped over a metal beam that lay on the ground.

He landed face-first.

The metal beam—it had been in the roof. And he had been on the roof just a few minutes ago. Before it collapsed. Before he was swallowed into metal and dust and debris.

His arm felt light. He groaned.

He was missing something.

His rifle.

Damn.

He needed his rifle.

He peered through the rising dust, choking, looking for any sign of it.

None.

It was gone.

He pulled himself up and pushed through the rubble. Outside, police sirens blared louder and louder.

He had to get out.

He tapped the visor that covered his eyes. It flashed orange, and zeroes and ones streamed across his vision before fading into nothing.

He brought his fingers up to the side of his head, just below the temple, where the visor ended. His cybernetic implant was still there, a glowing red half-orb that was smooth and warm to the touch. He pushed it in, and he felt a clicking inside his skull.

Nothing happened.

Click.

Nothing.

Click. Click.

Nothing.

He felt the other side of his head, where the other implant should have been.

His fingers dipped into a hole filled with wires and circuits.

The other implant was gone.

Without it, he wouldn’t be able to use his programming. No heat maps or GPS.

He cursed, dropped to the floor, feeling around in the dust and metal.

A sharp edge of something tore the skin on his arm. He didn’t feel it, but looked down to see skin peeling away from circuit, steel, and bone.

The room was enveloped in smoke and heat. He had to get out.

Searching for the implant was useless.

He broke into a run, climbing over the rubble.

A spotlight swept over the hangar, and he dove under a rafter to avoid it.

The light moved up and down and across the hangar, across the rubble, across the fire, across the darkness.

It was looking for him.

He moved faster this time, like a shadow, running and climbing his way through the hangar.

A gust of wind blew. He saw a jagged opening leading outside to the tarmac.

Tarmac.

He remembered now.

He had been perched on the roof.

He had been shooting.

At his target.

But she got away.

There was chaos. So much screaming.

And then it all went fuzzy.

He gripped his head as he ran for the opening.

Just a little further….

His boots cracked against glass and concrete.

The light outside grew brighter than the fire inside.

He broke out, into the balmy jungle air.

But then his eyes focused and he slid to a stop.

“Freeze!” a voice shouted.

Two dozen policemen surrounded him, their guns aimed at him.

All around, the spaceport tarmac was covered with commotion. A box-shaped spaceship lay overturned against the side of the hangar, on fire. A fire truck sprayed water on it. The flames jumped into the sky, coloring the trees orange and yellow.

The policemen did not look happy to see him.

He put his hands up.

Someone forced him to the ground and slapped handcuffs around his wrists.

A burly policewoman pulled him up.

“Whoever the hell you are, you’re under arrest for the murder of at least twenty people and disturbance of the peace.”

As the woman pulled him up and ushered him to the police car parked on the tarmac, Smoke’s head swam as he tried to figure out just what the hell had happened.

***

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