Sun’s Warmth

Astrid tried to ignore her pounding head as she looked around the large warehouse. It did not take very long, she could not move her head. Beyond the handful of soldiers, she spotted a dozen workers in lab coats. They ran this way and that shouting numbers and orders at each other. She stood strapped to what felt like a metal surface behind her. She felt the tightness of broad straps around her ankles, wrists, and neck. Astrid focused her gaze on the old, pot-bellied general that asked, then grinned.

“Which part?” she asked.

“Why did you think you could break into a top-secret government facility?” he asked. His voice was low and dry. Astrid made a show of slowly rolling her eyes around the room before they settled on the general again.

“The fact that I did,” she giggled. The general sighed.

“I suggest you take this matter seriously,” he replied. At his words, the five guards cocked their weapons. “Your child-like appearance won’t keep you safe. You walked through some of our best guards, you’re obviously not normal,” he returned her smile with a sinister gleam in his eye. “Here we specialize in ‘not normal’.”

“Child-like?!” Astrid felt a flash of anger. “I’m 14!” she shouted. He shrugged.

“Let’s try a different question. Why did you break in?” he asked.

“I have to leave,” Astrid said. Her voice carried more fear than she meant to show. The general’s eyes narrowed and a few of the lab coats closest to her stopped in their tracks at her words.

“What do you mean?” the general asked.

“I mean I know what you do here and I need to leave.”

“What’s the rush?” The general did not deny anything.

“If you’ve got an evacuation plan, now’s the time to use it,” Astrid said. “The world’s gonna end. Today.” Everyone that heard her, except for the gunmen, broke into laughter.

“And how do you know that?” the general asked in a patronizing tone. Astrid attempted a shrug but was bound too tightly to even lift her shoulders very far.

“Someone gave me a friendly warning. But it doesn’t matter, the point is today’s your last day unless you leave.”

“You’re underestimating how many contingency plans we have,” the general grinned. “We’re ready for anything. Zombies, robot uprising, disease outbreak, alien invasion, meteor impact, and so on. Many, many more unbelievable things that we take seriously around here. We’re ready for anything.” Astrid could not contain the raucous laughter that erupted out of her; if she could have doubled herself over she would have. After several moments she let her laughter fade but kept a smile on her face.

“You’re not, though,” she said.

“We shall see,” the general said. “in the meantime, please be our guest for the day. Tomorrow morning, when the world is still here, we can discuss your fighting talents in greater depth.”

“Little Luna, why are you still here?” a woman’s voice asked suddenly. A tall, pale woman was suddenly standing behind the general but no one saw how she got there. She wore a long black dress and had a pair of white horns protruding out of her black hair. All eyes turned toward the voice. Once the general noticed her, he took several steps back. The guardsmen turned their weapons to the newcomer. She ignored them and kept her focus on Astrid.

“Couldn’t make it to the portal,” Astrid replied.

“Ma’am, I’m going to ask you to stand down and let us take you into custody,” the general said. He raised his own pistol and pointed it at her. The woman looked down her nose at him then rolled her eyes.

“You’re lucky I have a soft spot for Lunas,” the woman said, giving Astrid her attention again. “Off you go.”

“Thank -” Astrid almost finished giving her thanks before a small black hole opened at her feet. It flew upward to swallow her then left behind several loose straps. Everyone’s attention had been focused on the woman until Astrid’s words were cut off; then, they noticed she was gone.

“Where’d she go?” The general asked. “Who are you?”

The woman smiled at the general. Saucer-sized black holes appeared around the room next to every single person in the warehouse. Skeletal hands reached out from the holes to grab the closest person. There were enough to grab each person in multiple places. Several pairs of bone hands clutched the general’s ankles, wrists, and neck. He managed to squeeze off a shot before the skeletons pulled his aim down.

The bullet was swallowed by a small black hole before it reached the woman. A pair of holes appeared in front of the general about a foot apart. A stray bullet flew out of one, across his vision, then it disappeared into the other one. The holes disappeared, then reappeared a bit closer to his face. They exchanged the bullet again going the other way. Again, they disappeared and reappeared closer; the bullet passed within an inch of the general’s nose.

“I’m Ballisea,” the woman said. The holes disappeared again, and a single one appeared in front of the general facing him. “Goodbye, Zero.”

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