Part 1: After the Rains

It was a drop, just a drop. How the fuck could just a drop do this?

I tossed aside the Simpkins tools and gauges, cans of Doweyko lubricant and nanopath cleansers. They clinked and clanked in rhythm with the thunder beyond the gaping garage doors.

Nothing. Nothing I saw would do the job.

Wait, that cabinet has a flammable symbol on it.

Sprinting across the motor depot, my left hand throbbed. The flesh below my skin pulsed with each beat of my heart, and banged with each step’s impact. Its muscles surged upward, in a tightening inflammation, that grew sharper with every movement, like the growing spines of a cactus.

The cabinet was locked.

Of course it’s locked, why wouldn’t they lock this shit up?

From the floor in the adjacent bay, I recovered a Moore bar. I slid the narrow end beneath the cabinet door, and popped it loose, into a wide swing. Its lock screeched, and flashed red strobes at me.

Like I give a fuck at this point.

Goddamn useless cans of Sapala fuel cluttered the cabinet’s lower shelf. On the second shelf, there it was, the Paris Torch.

As it powered up, it’s screen read, 43%.

More than enough.

My eyes sealed as I focused. My breaths were short and panicked. Pushing the pain off into the distant depths, away from thought, I slowed and examined my hand.

The swollen tips of my fingers glowed a bright orange. Their color darkened into a deep eggplant as they met my knuckles. The creases in the bends of my skin puffed outward and split open, leaking a rusty bubbling pus.

“What the fuck!” I said to the empty depot.

Thick ivory spines peeked through the pus, climbing higher by the second. Their tips split into branches, and flourished like a spiky orchard.

The ends of my fingers quivered as my nails popped away. Driving the thin sheaths were bright orange growths, which stretched outward in races with each other.

I heard my voice scream unintelligibly from behind my eyes. It couldn’t have been me this was happening to. It had to be Helford or Marylee’s nightmare, not a reality of here and now. The pain corkscrewed into my forearm, and wrenched me back to planet Wright.

“OK, OK,” I breathed forcefully through my words.

Clicking off the safety mechanism, I ignited the Paris. A stream of four inch long blue plasma extended from the discharge head.

The alluring aura soothed the eyes and lied about the pain.

I slammed my palm onto the concrete, and the backlash sent static across my vision. Lowering the plasma stream, my eyes fought to look away.

“Argh!” echoed against the bare metal walls, momentarily drowning away the sound of the rain.

The torch walked downward. The smell of burnt pork accompanied the cease of the Blood Rain’s torture, and the birth of my cauterized forearm’s immense sour throb.

My head was washed with light, and just wanted to sleep. I fought to focus and watched my severed hand wobble. Its orange tipped tentacled fingers squirmed, planting themselves against the cement and pulling toward me.

“Mother fucker!”

I aimed the plasma stream at my former hand. I wiggled and circled the flow, dosing the severed flesh in a deluge of blue plasma. It shook and vibrated, popping and sizzling, until it rested as a mound of black singed goo.

Leaning away, I scooted several meters across the floor, until my back felt the firm rubber of a Pietrzak Rover’s tire. The meter tall wheel pushed its smell of terraformed soil across my face. It was a welcome scent, even if only lightly covering that of my charred flesh.

Catching my breath, my eyes rested on the black remains of my hand. Behind it, the red rain fell.

How amazed we had been, when the rain began. Ten years of work, nine years of terraforming, three thousand colonists landed, and it finally rained.

The clear wet drops from the sky, they lured everyone outside. I hadn’t seen so many of us in one place, until the rain began, and after almost a decade of dryness, the call was too much.

Thank God I was late- as usual.

Part 1: Walters’ Race