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The Atlas Drake (Short Story)
March 03, 2019
When the world is on it's last leg, it is up to Lisa and the adolescent Atlas Drake to deliver the human race from certain destruction.
The Atlas Drake (Short Story): Work
They were almost to the drake pad. Just a few blocks stood between Lisa's small party of two and a fighting chance for the human race. The dying planet's fate rested squarely on their shoulders.
Her traveling companion, the adolescent Atlas Drake, was the world's only hope. It was the sole survivor of the majestic beasts that once balanced planetary conditions for organic life. With a little luck, the tiny, winged creature would buy the humans enough time to salvage what was left of the crumbling planet. They had to at least try.
Lisa finished her journal entry before stuffing the book in her leather satchel. She took their last can of food, opened it, and placed it on the ground before the cat-sized drake resting at her feet. The beautiful creature squawked with joy, no doubt, hungry from the day before. Its beak-like mouth rose to the sky as the beans made their way down its scaled throat.
The drake looked at her expectantly. Usually, they shared the meal, but that wasn't the case today. Lisa pushed the can closer to the drake, "That's okay, you have it."
It tilted its blue, feathered head to the side and stared up at her with its ruby-red eyes. Lisa smiled and nodded reassuringly toward the food. Ravenously, the drake licked the can clean. Satisfied, it curled around her leg and closed its eyes.
She would let the drake sleep for now, but they had to leave soon. Staying in one place for too long was dangerous in these parts. The buildings they had kept close to were a hollow remnant of what her ancestors, the Americans, had built. Once called Chicago, this city now crawled with artificially intelligent mechanized beasts self-tasked with eliminating the masters.
Lisa had disposed of the few machines that crossed her path along the way, but that wouldn't matter if they were discovered. If even one mech sent out a distress call, a swarm of AIs would overrun them within minutes. As luck would have it, the machines she had dispatched hadn't seen them coming. No, luck had nothing to do with it. She exercised too much caution for that to happen.
After letting the drake catch a few minutes of sleep, she gingerly woke it by scratching its head. The creature yawned, then released her leg from its clutches. They shared a special bond. Most likely because Lisa had been there for it since it hatched from an egg.
Lisa stood, slung her satchel over her shoulder, then walked to the hole in the side of the building they currently rested in. She placed her hand on the metal framework and leaned against it for support. There wasn't much energy left in her, but she had to keep going for a little longer.
Slight radiation from the city's siege still encumbered her even after years had passed. Though the drake didn't seem to be affected by it, she knew this would be her final destination. None of that mattered, however, if it meant her sacrifice would secure a promising future for her husband and young son. Lisa just hoped they could forgive her for leaving them.
The wind scattered the sand covering the asphalt roads as it brushed across the street, forcing her to pull down the goggles from atop her head. The drake flew slightly above her as they skulked through the alleyways. Lisa knew exactly where they were going. She had plotted their route from an old map, committing it to memory before they had even entered the metropolis.
The sound of hydraulics came from the street ahead.
Lisa ducked behind a half-buried dumpster and peered from its edge. She patted the ground beside her, a method of communication she had taught the young drake. It landed and nuzzled next to her, attempting to conceal its body mass the best it could.
A Panzermech stepped into her view of the street and stopped. The chest hatch on its square body opened, and a metal sphere extended from it. Lisa knew what it was. This was how the machines scanned their surroundings.
She leaned her head against the building's mortar and watched the red grid of scanning lasers pass. The beams retracted, and the machine moved on. A quiet sigh of relief escaped her lips, and she attempted to calm the shaking throughout her body. The mech had passed, but it would pick the sound up if she made too much noise.
The two companions stayed where they were for a few minutes before continuing. Patrols were heavier here. Most likely because the party inched closer to the drake pad. It took them far longer than Lisa anticipated to reach the building they were looking for. When they arrived, she could see signs pointing to the legendary drake pad.
Lisa bolted across the courtyard as fast as her weak legs would allow. She slipped through the broken door frames and found a solitary, metal door looming before her. She grasped the handle and pulled, cringing as the door's hinges squealed.
The ground pulsed, and booming metal footsteps sounded from outside the courtyard. Lisa's eyes widened with horror when she looked back to find a Titanmech charging the building. She hurried the drake through and slammed the door behind them.
Her feet pounded through the corridor as she ran. To the right, a glass window serving as a wall allowed a full view of what used to be a garden. The Titanmech smashed through the lobby walling, speckling everything in red tracking beams. Advanced missile launchers extended from the metal plating of the colossal hunter.
The payloads were unleashed from the giant, and Lisa's party was blown backward. The drake screeched. Lisa scrambled to it, quickly sweeping the creature for any signs of injury.
She scooped it up in her arms and sprinted into the desolate garden, directly in front of the Titanmech. The machine slammed its metal arm into the sand before her. Lisa vaulted over it and jumped through the opposing glass wall while the Titanmech readied another volley of missiles.
Her strategy to delay its reload had worked. Now, in her free hand sat a small, metal sphere that she had picked up during their journey. She squeezed the device and slid on her thigh along the ground, planting the globe in the hall's middle. Two seconds later, it detonated.
A blue forcefield expanded behind them, covering every inch of space between the Titanmech and themselves. The trick would only protect them from one volley, but it would be enough time to get into the conversion chamber. Lisa ripped the doors open as the shield took the full force of the Titanmech's attack. She sealed the entrance before the smoke cleared, leaving the machine to initiate searching protocols on the now empty corridor.
Lisa turned and saw the drake pad in its full glory. They had done it. She rushed to the edge of the pad, placing the uninjured drake on the synthetic material. The mighty converter engines powered up.
To her dismay, the Titanmech broke through the concrete wall once it picked up the engines' sound. Its missile rack was empty, giving it no choice but to fight Lisa head-on. She had to distract it while the conversion process ran its course, or her efforts would be in vain. This would be her final stand.
Lisa surged forward. The metal colossus swung its arm and caught her in the stomach. She gasped as her broken body rebounded off the wall. The Titanmech approached and wrapped its steel hand around her torso, pulling her up to inspect what she was.
The metal giant's yellow eye turned red the moment it identified her. It threw her to the ground and crushed her arm with its foot, pinning her in place. She screamed as every bone shattered. The only thing keeping her trapped was the stretching tendons.
A mixture of a screech and a mighty roar sounded from the pad. The drake clawed toward her, nearly breaking free of the converter. Lisa held her free hand up, commanding it to stay. It cried out pitifully but obeyed as the Titanmech rose its metal arm for the killing blow.
The converter powered down, and the fully grown drake stepped free. Its powerful tail slammed the Titanmech into the wall Lisa had been thrown into. The massive winged beast pounced and ripped at the machine, sending scraps of metal everywhere. Only once the machine ceased moving did the drake stop.
The blue-scaled wonder laid its massive head next to Lisa's destroyed body. A crystal tear dropped from its cheek and landed on the ground beside her. She smiled weakly as a patch of grass grew in the sand. The conversion was successful.
The drake gently nudged her remaining hand. Lisa scratched its nose for the final time, "Go on, the world is waiting for you." It laid down and whimpered, not wanting to leave her side. "You can't stay here. They'll kill you," she said gently.
A hint of sadness filled her heart. She didn't want to part with the Atlas Drake either, but the earth needed it more. The drake bowed its head reverently as if to say farewell, then pumped its enormous wings and took to the sky. Lisa watched as the winged beast rose far above the ceilingless room. The time had come for it to fulfill its destiny.
Panic pulsed through her as a volley of missiles shot toward the drake from every direction. The drake tucked its wings and spun in the sky. It glowed from each brilliant blue scale. With grace, the atlas drake unfurled its wings, and she watched with awe as bolts of lightning erupted from its body. All missiles exploded hundreds of feet away from the drake.
Lisa sighed with relief and lay her head on the sand. She had succeeded. Her eyes grew heavy as her body shut down. One final breath escaped her lips, and Lisa slipped into the great unknown.
The Atlas Drake (Short Story): Text
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