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  • Andrea Anderson


Updated: Jul 13, 2021

genre: sci-fi/suspense

word count: 400


Red. Yellow. Blue.

The blinking is monotonous, perfectly timed, fleeting, distractingly vivid flashes of light that reflect back a little blurry – a little dim – off the chrome and steel and chilly gray iron of the control room. There’s a pervasive echo of clacking keyboards and low-pitched electrical buzzing, a static reminder that these machines don’t require human supervision to continue working.

They don’t need people, not like people need them.

Red. Yellow. Blue.

“What does that mean?” Haskins demands, gesturing aggressively to the nearest block of computers. The patches sewn onto the front of his uniform are stained dark with oil and blood, factory-stiff edges gritty with dirt, the embroidered white lettering of his name and title just barely shining through. “That fucking—those colors. That pattern. It’s new. What does it mean?”

You swallow, nervously reaching up to prod at the mark on your cheek. It’s a burn, stinging and tender and sharp, already beginning to blister in the middle. “I don’t—I don’t know, sir.”

“You don’t know,” Haskins repeats, clenching and unclenching his fists. The knuckles on his right hand are still littered – still punctured – with kaleidoscopic fragments of broken glass. “How is that possible?”


Red. Yellow. Blue.

“How long have you been in charge here?”

“Four months, sir.”

“And in those four months,” Haskins says, glancing back at you, the almost pin-straight inversion of his bushy, silver-white eyebrows giving him an air of quietly predatory menace, “were you not tasked with the day-to-day operations of this warehouse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The maintenance of this warehouse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The cleanliness of this warehouse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The safety of this warehouse?”

You hesitate, pulse skittering with unease. “Yes, sir.”

Haskins audibly grits his teeth. “Then why the fuck do we have a fucking mutiny on our hands, soldier?”

The strap of your rifle digs into your shoulder as you shift your weight from side to side. Foot to foot. Outside the control room, down the narrow, rickety stairs and past the out-of-order conveyor belts, comes a faintly metallic hissing sound, like that of a highly pressurized pipe bursting – and you recognize it, the sound, the foreboding, the impenetrable sense of dread

“The lights are how they communicate,” you finally blurt out, shooting a quick glance at the heavy-duty padlock on the door that leads to the armory. “Sir.”


“The machines, sir.”





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