The Security Issue
Quick as a Flash - Week 2
Fact and Fiction
Hello again! I’m back to break up the monotony of the day with some really short stories. Today, I present to you the Security issue. We entrust locked doors, keypads, and guards to keep us and our belongings safe. What happens when the time comes to test them out?
Useless in the End
“That’s quite the security,” he said, pointing out the state-of-the-art padlock on the bike rail. Kinetic shielding. Motion-triggered density increase. 24/7 monitoring. It had it all.
“And yet,” said the other thief, wheeling the gilded bike away. “They clipped it on wrong.”
Yahoel fiddled with his halo as he rewound the footage. Had his break gone on too long? Yes. Should nuclear winter have taken place while his back was turned? Probably not.
He hit play.
Onscreen, the Antichrist addressed the UN and purposely mispronounced the word ‘gif.’
Your Happy Place and You
Build your happy place. Toss in all the throw pillows you want. Add a soft blanket. Fine-tune the temperature. Invite your loved ones. Ban the toxic ones. Ban fossil fuels. Instill a mandatory happiness law. Lock the doors. Outlaw physics. Absorb everything. You are now happy.
Advanced Facial Recognition
“Access denied,” said the laptop.
“I didn’t even hit ‘enter’!”
“You’re clearly not my user.”
“I’ve been given clearance to access their data.”
“Okay, what’s my user’s name?”
He glanced at the name etched on the messenger bag he’d stolen. “Tommy Hilfiger?”
“Oh for God’s sake….”
We had another fight, and I’m determined to make it our last.
Closed door. Closed heart.
Changed number. Changed locks.
A mental fortress with walls so high, no amount of strength can scale them.
Phone rings. You’re dead.
And once again, thoughts of you find a way into my head.
A Wild Ride
Whitney landed the mechsuit gracelessly in front of a facility only rumored to exist.
Her cloaking was adequate at best. It wouldn’t be long before she was met with a hastily put-together response to her invasion. Time was of the essence if she wanted to avoid seeing whether her mech’s steel plating could take multiple missile rounds.
She flipped the thrusters on and pushed the yoke forward. The hulking 12-foot monster charged through the barbed wire fence, crushing panicked guards under its treads. It crumpled brick walls like tissue paper, sending powder and debris everywhere.
Inside, dozens of boots stomped along the ground. Armed and uniformed soldiers appeared from every visible hallway. She cackled and opened a panel, mashing the button underneath. White-hot static roared around her as the air began to vibrate.
The small army lifted their weapons. A barrage of bullets rushed to greet her, only to ricochet off a red barrier that sprouted around her. The bullets bounced back at the shooters, piercing torsos and appendages.
She watched an onscreen gauge fill, ticking off the moments before she had absorbed enough kinetic energy.
“Eat it,” she said, hitting another button. The red barrier glowed and expanded, searing the flesh off every being that made contact with it.
Room clear. Time for the next.
And so she went from one room to another. Crash. Soldiers. Shooting. Barrier. Heat. Burnt flesh. Death. Repeat. Her battery took a beating from overuse. She resorted to using the mech’s own artillery against the guards, though she noted that some wore lab coats and wielded lasers. Scientists? Even better.
Lights flashed in the cockpit, warning her of damaged parts. Just a little longer. The connection with her target was strengthening.
She burst through the last access-restricted door into a storage room with a containment chamber nestled in a corner. The dimly lit structure held a thin woman floating in preservation fluid.
She opened the cockpit and rushed out, blood pounding in her ears, threatening to break out of her body and consume everything around her.
Ashe. She’d found her sister.
She grabbed a discarded steel rod and struck the glass of the container. Three strikes, and it shattered, green fluid spilling out. She tossed the rod aside and tore at the tank remnants, thankful she already had leather gloves on. Once the hole was big enough to safely remove Ashe, she yanked her out and leaned her against a crate.
Ashe’s face was a splotchy, unrecognizable mess of pink scar tissue. That damn pixie-like nose was the only clue that told Whitney she had the right person. What had she endured? She pulled her close and hugged her, wishing she was awake so that they could talk.
There was a gasp in her ear. “Behind you.”
She turned in time to see two armed men burst into the room. Muscle memory guided her as she pulled out her pistol and put a shell into each of their skulls, her other arm remaining tight around Ashe.
Ashe breathed a sigh of relief. “There’s still a couple hundred more in the building.”
“This place’ll be torched soon enough. Are any evacuating?”
Ashe shook her head. “Any attempts to escape are met with immediate termination. It’s been drilled into their heads. Mine too.”
“Are you in pain?”
“Stupid amounts of it,” she whispered. “I’m funneling it into the brains of the surrounding guards. You’re bleeding, by the way.”
She looked down and noticed her bare arms had been sliced by the glass. Superficial damage. “I’ll live.” She looked into Ashe’s red, sullen eyes. She couldn’t remember their original color. “Tell me you’re well enough to get out of here.”
Ashe huffed. “Lab rats don’t make it long outside of captivity, I’m afraid.”
“Dammit.” Her resolve was crumbling. Ashe’s fingers snaked their way around her bicep.
“Hey,” Ashe said. “It’s like you said. We can still take this place down. But you need to adjust one thing in your plan.”
“And that is?”
“The bullets are for enemies only. Don’t save any for yourself.”
Shame churned her stomach contents. “How’d you know?”
Ashe giggled, a noise that used to bring a lightness to Whitney’s heart but now only sounded foreign and hollow. “All this psychic power, and you think I wouldn’t use it to invade my big sis’s mind? I used to break into your room all the time. This isn’t any different.” Her smile broke as she turned her head to have a coughing fit. She roughly wiped at her chin, but Whitney could still see the red streaks of drying blood. “I am serious, though. Live through this for the both of us.”
Whitney thought she could do anything for Ashe. But leaving her to die alone? She found herself nodding. She always had trouble saying no to Ashe.
“Three more are coming. They’re equipped with power armor. Give me the bomb to set up, and get out of here.”
“You promised. Don’t make me force you to keep your word.”
Loud, clanking footsteps approached.
Whitney swore and pressed the bomb and triggering mechanism into Ashe’s hands, squeezing them gently. “I love you, sis.” Trembling, she let go.
“Love you, too. Keep your promise. Live.”
Pain raced up Whitney’s body as she was telekinetically thrown across the room and into the cockpit. Three soldiers burst in, weapons drawn on Ashe. It was for naught, though, as their guns and armor began deconstructing before they could fire.
Memories of Ashe’s screams as she mentally pulled the soldiers apart seared themselves into Whitney’s mind. She closed the mechsuit and used what little fuel was left to jet through the roof, setting fire to all she could.
Fifteen minutes later, she sat on a mound several miles away, watching the blazing inferno that was once a so-called lab institution. She wanted nothing more than to be in there, burning with her sister, but she had made a promise.
Going forward, she would live for them both.