“Rider from the Storm” – Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: The Phoenix

It’s that time again folks, from the talented and ever terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes another weekly challenge. I decided that this time I would continue the story from last week’s attempt, as I like the world I was building there and this prompt gave me a perfect excuse to revisit it.  Hope you enjoy another slice of Li Drevin’s life…

“Li Drevin?”

I ignored the woman asking my identity and continued loading the limited storage space on Harley, my warp-bike. I spared a glance her direction, saw the uniform, and thanked the ancestors I’d chosen not to respond. It didn’t matter. She saw my glance, and her face took on a hard glare.

“It’s no use ignoring me. I was confirming your identity as a matter of civility, Mr. Drevin, but I know it already. I’ve come to bring you back to the Congress. They weren’t done with their questions.”

“What’s more to ask, Lieutenant…”

I glanced briefly at her chest. Strictly professionally, I assure you.

“…Anders? I’ve told them what I came to tell them. I’ve warned them of what’s coming, and how quick it’s doing so. Now I am going to jump on my bike, hit the black, and get my way to the other side of the galaxy, quick as I can. I don’t have time for political bullshit.”

None of us do, I thought.

“And what then?” she asked, crossing her arms, “If these things – what did you call them? Phoenix? Phoenixes? Phoeni? What is the plural for them?”

I hadn’t named them. I was just hired help, out on the galactic rim, that happened to be on the planet where they were found and knew the scientist who named them. Gracie Wu. Poor girl. She’d called them Phoenix when she’d found their ancient, long-buried ship during a geological survey. Their bodies, desiccated and lifeless, revived with exposure to the light of that system’s star. As they revived, they emitted brilliant flashes of bioluminescence.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Gracie had said.

That was just over three cycles ago. Gracie was dead, now, along with nearly everyone else on that world.

“Phoenix,” I grumbled, “The plural is just Phoenix, like fish and deer. As for what I’ll do then…”

I sighed. What would I do then? The Phoenix, at first, seemed benign. Almost plantlike in their forms, their limbs like tendrils, roots, off shoots of pulpy, vegetative bodies. Then they began to move. To walk, or writhe, or slither, or whatever the fuck it is one does on tendrils.

Then they began to fly.

That was the first sign that something was wrong. When the first one took to the air, hovering, much to the misplaced delight of the people watching. Then it struck. Fast as lighting. A tendril drilled deep into the heart of the lady who’d brought it back to life. It consumed her from the inside out, shriveling her flesh till it looked like the things she’d pulled from the ground. And then…then her flesh began to writhe, to wiggle in the sun. To reform, to expand, to move on its own power. Hot light burst from her, and she stood. Not Gracie. The thing that wore her body, her face, but not Gracie.

The planet was overwhelmed in hours.

I’m fast, damned fast. Not just on a warp bike, but on foot. Always have been. I still don’t know quite how I’d gotten away but I had, and I wasn’t going to give them a second shot at me. So I’d go, far. Other side of the galaxy, and from there? A sleeper ship maybe? I know they were launching some outwards to the distant arms of another conglomeration of stars. I didn’t know.

All I did know was that a storm was coming. And I planned to ride ahead of it for as long as I could.

“Mr. Drevin, please come back to the Congress. I don’t want to have to use force.”

I turned back towards the young lieutenant, and saw the stun-rod in her hand.

Like I said, I’m fast. Damned fast. Her arm was already in motion, but I was a blur, stepping underneath and pushing her arm, helping momentum carry her swing too far and off balancing her. I placed one leg slightly behind her, and pushed, toppling her to the ground and snatching the stun-rod from her hand. She looked up at me in shock, her eyes focusing on the tags that hung from my neck, with their distinctive black and gold stripes. Her mouth hung agape.

“Drevin…you – you were at Lisborn?”

I felt the color drain from my face.

The Battle of Lisborn. The last great battle in a war of greed and power-grabbing. And attempt by a bunch of wealthy, power hungry fucks to break apart the Republic. It was at Lisborn that they’d used their ace card, the device they thought would make even the might of the Republic tremble. The Star Crusher. Tens of millions lost in a moment. A blink of an eye, the collapse of a star. Everyone in the system dead. Everyone but one.

I’m damned fast.

The only good thing that came out of Lisborn, myself included, was a sudden, crushing defeat of the separatists. They hadn’t counted on the Republic doing that, and the Star Crusher? They only had the one. Their bluff got called, and they folded faster than the star that Lisborn orbited.

The mood shifted. I reached out, helped Anders up, handed her back her stun-rod. I noted her face, as pale now as mine had been at the mention of Lisborn.

“Ancestors be merciful,” she breathed, her eyes welling with tears, “You aren’t lying. They’re coming.”

I nodded.

“What should we do? What can we do?”

I shrugged.

“Head for the far side of the galaxy,” I said, “Maybe catch a sleeper ship. Try to stay ahead of the storm.”

I paused just long enough to throw a leg over Harley. Anders didn’t do a thing to try and stop me.

“Stay ahead of the storm, and hope to the thousand hells that they can’t cross deep space.”

I pulled on my helmet, touched off the bike’s engines. I left her there, staring off into the black. Staring in the direction of the Phoenix, and the coming storm of fire.

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7 comments

  1. I thought this week’s continuation was even better than your first story. Your use of the Phoenix was also very cool, especially since you use them as your primary antagonist. Clearly this is a story which needed to be (and wanted to be) told. As I was reading, I kept getting flashes of comparison from your Phoenix… “Ooh, it’s like those ‘aliens’ out of The World Jones Made. No, it reminds me of Phalanx. No, it’s more like the Thorian Creeper.” But as many comparisons as I feel I can make, your Phoenix also has a very unique quality about it. I really hope you continue this next week! :)

  2. Scary critters, with best features of several traditional nightmares. LIke this twist on the phoenix, yes, and it’s not out of the range of (eco)biological possibility.

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