It’s finally here: the gripping conclusion to “The Pyramid

Today, the Circle of Champions, the winners of my monthly writing contests, wrap up a great Sci Fi story collaboration. This week, Jim Hamilton gives us the thrilling conclusion to . . .

The Pyramid

Part 1 by Jim Hamilton

At 2:27 p.m., on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon, The Pyramid shimmered into being only 17.2 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Fully a mile on a side and rising 4,000 feet above the desert landscape, it was impossible to miss.

By 2:37 p.m., hundreds of videos of it were already trending on every social media platform and two local news stations were transmitting raw footage as their helicopters flew towards it. Already, millions of people around the globe were beginning to endlessly speculate—each wanting to be the first to successfully guess the whys and wherefores of The Pyramid.

Two thousand miles to the east–2,095 miles to be exact–the U.S. president was holding a meeting in the Oval Office when the head of her security detail opened the door and said, “Madame President, I need for you to come with me right now. Protocol seven.”

Surprised at the sudden interruption, she immediately arose while apologizing, “Gentlemen, I’m afraid that you’ll have to excuse me.” She quickly followed the Secret Service agent out of the room and down the hall to the elevator.

As the car made its descent deep underground, the agent handed her a tablet. “You need to see this, ma’am.”

“What am I looking at?” she asked, as she watched the news video.

The chyron was too small to make out.

“It’s a giant pyramid, ma’am. It appeared about fifteen minutes ago outside Las Vegas.”

The elevator bell dinged and the doors parted. The President strode into the Situation Room and stood for a moment, studying the displays before addressing the Officer of the Day. “Status report!”

“Yes, ma’am. As you can see from the various video feeds, a large pyramid has suddenly appeared outside of Las Vegas.”

“Yes, yes. I’ve already got that part.”

Unfazed, he continued. “It covers about a square mile and is of unknown origin. We’ve got an AWAC en route to the site and two F-35s from Groom Lake are already orbiting five miles out. All air traffic in and out of McCarran International has been halted or diverted elsewhere. Local police and Homeland Security are currently working to cordon off the area on the ground.” He pointed at one of the screens. “That feed is from one of our military satellites that was fortunate enough to be watching at the time.”

“Any hostile activity?”

“None yet, ma’am. The relevant personnel have all been contacted and are on their way. The Secretary of Defense should be here at any moment.”

“Very good, Leroy,” she said, as she took her seat at the head of the long oval table. As she waited for the others to arrive, she contemplated the scenes on the ever-changing screens, frustrated with the lack of information at her disposal. She had seen the UFO files and knew that Earth had been visited before. She knew that this could only be another visit, but for what purpose? She crossed her fingers and hoped that they had come in peace.

Part 2 by Glenn R. Frank

“Osiris Flight, be advised, telemetry and comms are on live-feed to the White House Sit-Room.”

Maj. Holder knew this was as much a jab at his frequent use of profanity as it was critical information. He could feel his wingman’s silent laughter, in spite of the radio silence that followed.

“Osiris One. Acknowledged,” Holder responded.

Holder looked down to his left toward the Pyramid. His F-35’s helmet visor displayed the view as if he were looking through the side of his aircraft. It accented the huge object with infrared and data overlays.

“The structure has no radar return but is visible as solid material on all other wavelengths. Request permission for close approach.”

“Granted, Osiris One.”

“Osiris Two, maintain five-mile orbit,” Holder instructed his wingman.

“Acknowledged,” came Capt. Anderson’s reply.

Holder rolled his plane left and pointed it at the Pyramid. He approached and engaged the hover ability of his aircraft, slowing to a standstill half a mile from the structure.

“Surface still appears solid . . . Zero radar reflection . . . No signs of electronic emissions . . . .”

A point of light blazed on the surface of the Pyramid, from which a dark object zipped over Holder’s head and accelerated toward Las Vegas. His heart pounded. He hesitated for just an instant before he spun his plane and punched the throttle in pursuit.

“Shit! Bogie deployment from the structure. Osiris flight in pursuit!”

Anderson’s F-35 zipped past him, chasing the unknown object as Holder boosted up to maximum afterburner speed. The dark, winged object flew over the Las Vegas Strip at an altitude of 1,000 feet, made two abrupt ninety degree turns, and sped straight back toward the Pyramid. Anderson and Holder banked hard but couldn’t hold the turn as tight as the alien craft.

“Holy Cra . . . ” Holder caught himself mid-phrase.

“Object has doubled back to the Pyramid – we’re in pursuit.”

Flight control cut in. “Weapons release is not authorized, NOT authorized, pursue only.”

The object accelerated away from them and re-entered the side of the Pyramid at full speed in a flash of light.

“I’m going through,” shouted Anderson.

“Veer off,” Holder ordered.

Anderson’s plane flew right into the side of the Pyramid with a flash, just as the UFO had. He vanished from sight and radar.

“Osiris Two entered the Pyramid. I’m following him.”

“Negative, Osiris One . . .” 

But Holder had already plunged into the Pyramid.

Complete darkness enveloped his view. A shrill sound attacked his ears and a metallic taste filled his mouth, making him sick.

“Osiris Two . . . respond,” he managed to choke out. There was no reply.

The darkness cleared with another flash of light. It was replaced by a dim, blue landscape of hills and an enormous white disk dominating the sky.

Alarms blared – engine flameout. 

Holder attempted a restart. No good. The engine was O2 starved and dead.

Wherever I am, there‘s not enough oxygen in this atmosphere!

The ground came up fast. He yanked the ejection trigger and the seat shot him through the canopy. He blacked out.

Part 3 by Jim Hamilton

As the two planes disappeared into the side of the giant Pyramid, an audible gasp went up around the table in the Situation Room at the White House. The President turned to face the monitor that displayed General Hemington, seated at his own console two miles away underneath the Pentagon.

The President’s eyes widened, glancing back at the other monitors, then again at the General’s image. “What just happened to our fighter jets?” she asked. “Are the pilots okay?”

Hemington put his hand over his microphone and looked to the side, apparently asking someone a question. He removed his hand and looked back at the President. “We don’t know, ma’am. The AWAC tracked the F-35s with both FLIR and RADAR, but they disappeared when they passed through the wall of the Pyramid. According to the AWAC operator, she says that the Pyramid isn’t there at all. Or the planes. Just the flat desert terrain that we would expect. It appears to somehow be shielding itself from everything but the visible spectrum.”

“What about the unknown object that they were chasing?”

“Both pilots automatically turned on their high-speed cameras before giving pursuit,” Hemington said.

“Like the Pyramid itself, the object seems to be transparent to almost everything, only reflecting light in the visible spectrum. Even at 500 frames per second, almost all of the video is blurry.” He smiled a bit. “However, we’ve managed to isolate several frames that show the object clearly. If you’ll look at Screens 3 and 4, you can see that it’s a small, delta-winged craft, about three feet across.”

“Do you think that it’s a drone or a probe of some sort?” asked the President, as she studied the photos.

“Could be, ma’am.”

She turned to her science advisor, seated to her left. “Carl? What’s your take on this? Does that look at all familiar?”

Carl glanced over to the communications operator and drew his hand across his throat. The com-op acknowledged his request and tapped on his keyboard before looking up and announcing, “All mikes are off, Madame President.”

“Sorry, Madam President,” Carl said, a bit apologetically. “You know the protocol regarding all things ENIGMA.”

She nodded. Pointing to screen three, she said, “It’s the same thing that hit that weather balloon in Roswell, isn’t it?”

“It would appear to be the same, ma’am. But we don’t want to make that assumption quite yet.”

“So, what do we do now?” She indicated a screen. “Hemington will want to attack it with everything he has handy, but I think that we should hold up until we know more.”

Carl nodded vigorously. “Oh, I quite agree. While the planes quit transmitting once they passed through the Pyramid’s shield, we might be able to send in a tethered robot that would only be linked by fiber.”

“Do you think that will work?”

Carl shrugged. “Maybe. We won’t know for sure until we try it.”

The President smiled for the first time since the Pyramid appeared. She turned to the com-op. “Connect us to General Hemington.” She turned back to her science advisor. “And you tell him what we need to make it happen.”

Part 4 by Jeremy Wilson

As the great disk ascended on rotation 702, Larry began preparations on the scout ship.

Of course, Larry wasn’t her actual designation, but she found that it facilitated communication with the carbon-based beings of Earth during routine probings (for information, of course).

For eons, her brood had been monitoring the progression of the humans, though Larry could never understand why. They were primitive creatures; prone to violence and self-destruction.

As Larry reviewed the day’s mission, she warmed up the refraction engine, having verified the accumulator was at capacity.

The engine sputtered. She slammed her claw down onto the engine chamber in frustration and the resonators fell back into place, humming as they should.

Aside from actually propelling the craft, the engine created a connection point at the coordinates Larry set and was supposed to camouflage said connection point by manipulating the local ambient spectrum.

Many orbits ago, camouflaging the connection point wasn’t a concern. It could appear as anything and the early humans would welcome her like she was a great creator. But now that the humans had discovered the power of the atom (which any broodling could have figured out, by the way), she was expected to be more cautious.

Unfortunately, ever since the “incident” with the humans’ gas-filled atmospheric monitoring apparatus, Larry had been forced to share this ship with Jerry, whose excretions frequently caused malfunctions.

At least this was to be a night mission, so any malfunctions should go unnoticed.

Larry entered the craft and engaged the engines. The craft hovered while she tapped out the coordinates. All at once, she shot forward into darkness, the pleasant sensation of heavy metals greeted her mandibles.

As she exited the portal, she was blinded by bright light. Pain shot through her ocular sensors as she realized it was the middle of the day cycle.

In terror, she rotated her rear ocular stock to look back at the connection point. She panicked when she observed that the connection point was appearing as a large polyhedron.

At the velocity she was traveling, Larry was already over the human’s habitable zone before she could react. She immediately changed course and headed back to the portal, but it was too late. The primitive human ships were already giving chase.

She re-entered the portal, but before she could disengage the engine, both craft followed her. The first was so close that the disturbance from her engine sent it almost immediately back through the portal, though Larry guessed it might take some time to reappear on Earth.

The second craft also made it through but failed immediately, ejecting the soft human held within.

Larry went over and examined the unconscious jelly bag of a creature. Its soft outer shell had the symbol “‘Hang-On’ Holder” emblazoned on it. It was beginning to twitch and sputter.

Larry knew that if this thing died in here, she’d never get the stench out, so she gingerly shoved the jelly bag back through the portal.

She turned to close the portal, but a massive metal contraption floated through with a long filament connected to it.

She slammed the portal shut, severing the filament protruding from the metal monstrosity . . .

Part 5 by Jim Hamilton

In the Situation Room beneath the White House, the President, the Secretary of State, and the President’s Science Advisor were wearing virtual headgear and being fed the eight-channel stream from the UAV drone. Six separate video views seamlessly overlapped and provided the perception of being able to see in any direction while two audio channels provided stereo sound to the headsets.

They watched as they drew closer to the Pyramid and then suddenly passed through the wall and into utter darkness.

“What happened?” asked the President.

“I’m not sure, ma’am. We’re still getting data.”

Carl spoke up. “I think we’re seeing the absence of light.”

For ten long seconds, the visors remained dark. Suddenly, they passed through a black curtain and they had their first view of the alien landscape. A movement to the side drew their attention, and they glimpsed Holder’s body being dragged into the curtain. A moment later, they got their first look at the alien. It walked erect on two spindly legs and had two arms that ended in giant claws. The upper end, where a head would be, sported several dozen eyeballs, each on a separate stalk. It mostly resembled a lobster on steroids wearing a pincushion hat.

The Secretary of State started laughing. “It’s only about three inches tall!”

At that moment, the alien saw the probe. There was a high-pitched shriek and its eyes bugged out in all directions. It fumbled at its belt with its claw and, in the next second that followed, three unexpected events happened at once. The first was the sudden appearance of Capt. Anderson’s F-35 as it came cart-wheeling out of the Pyramid. The second was the sudden disappearance of the Pyramid itself. And the third, while not immediately noticed, was the appearance of Maj. Ken Holder’s body on the ground at the center of the space which the Pyramid had previously been occupying.

They sat in stunned silence until the President broke the ice. “Well, I must say, I didn’t see that coming!”


Larry stomped back to her craft and climbed aboard. She turned to her navigator and shook her mandibles. “Do you know what that was, Jerry?”

His eyestalks all retracted in fear. “Which ‘that’ was that?”

“All of it! This whole mission was an unmitigated disaster. We’re lucky to get away with as little exposure as we did.” She pondered a moment. “What are we going to do about it, Jerry?”

He turned a lavender shade of blue. He knew what was coming.

“I’m cutting you off from all heavy metals until you can get your digestive tract under control.”

“Even the Zolium?”

“Yes, especially the Zolium. It makes you bloat.” She collapsed her mandibles. “When we’ve got you fully purged, we’re coming back and finishing what we set out to do, okay?”

Jerry’s eyes all bobbled together.

“These humans are very simple and have a very short attention span.” She wagged her head in amusement. “It won’t be long before most of them will have forgotten we were here.”


General Hemington spoke up. “We have confirmation that Osiris Two is okay and returning to base. One of our helos is in voice contact with Major Holder over his suit radio. He’s shaken up a bit, but says that he’s alright.”

“That’s great news, General!” said the President. “I want Protocol Seven clean-up immediately. All videos, all cloud sources, all social media. Wiped.” She looked him in the eye. “This time tomorrow, I want everyone to think that it never happened.”

“Understood, Madame President.”


Wow! Like the President, I have to say “I didn’t see that coming!”

Jim wrapped up this pass-the-baton story with action, drama and some humor. Great job!

If you enjoyed the story, please leave a kind comment for Jim, Jeremy, and Glenn below.

Soon, my Champions will be bringing to you a large collection of free stories in Act 2 of our Globe serial. If you have not read any of those stories, start with the drama-filled Pillars of Smoke from Act 1.

Also, my September Contest has just begun. Readers are really enjoying the beginning of the story. Take a read and then see if you’d like to finish the story and enter my contest. For September, I’ve increased the cash prize to $50. All you have to do is write 500 words (or less).

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

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Here’s the Inside Scoop on the January Contest winner

I loved Frasier Armitage’s ending to my flash fiction story, “The Lost Cadet.” It literally gave me goosebumps as I read it for the first time.

I was reading along, not even halfway through the finish, and I thought, “Yes, this is good! This story is worthy of being a winner!”

As I was setting up the page–I have to create a new blog post for the complete, winning story–I was in such a good mood. Was it because I love editing and fixing the space marks? No. I do enjoy editing, but not that much.

I took a seven-minute break–yes, I timed it–to unload the dishwasher. Because real life seeps in through the seams of our best fictional lives no matter how much we caulk them. I found myself singing “Let the Good Times Roll” by the Cars.

“Let the good times roll. Let good times ro-ooll! Let the GOOD … TIMES … ROLL!”

My grandmother, Eloise, used to say you can always tell a man is in a good mood when he’s whistling. I’ve found that to be true of men and women and equally true of whistling, singing or even just humming.

So, Frasier, thanks so much for giving a great ending to the January Contest story! Let the good times roll!

This is the January Winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is

Frasier Armitage

February Contest: I’ll be announcing the February contest on Monday, Jan. 25.

January Contest

I started the story below. See how Frasier seamlessly picks up the tale after the red line and gives us an exciting ending with a real twist. It blew me away!

The Lost Cadet

by Frasier Armitage and Matthew Cross

Thrace smashed through the undergrowth as fast as she could.  Every bush was twice her height and several times her width.  Even the grasses on this planet grew as tall as an adult.  And when she ran through the grass, the brilliant white sun shone in her face.

She could barely see where she was going and the grasstops whipped at her face and cut at her arms.  But she did not care.  She ran headlong from the beast that pursued her.  When it bellowed, the vibrations ripped through her entire body.  Her stomach turned to liquid, her knees lost their thrust, and even her molars ached.  She tried covering her ears once, but that only protected her ears.  And the beast had almost caught her!

She was living breath to ragged breath.  Her lungs burned, her legs burned, her heart was trying to leap from her chest.  She felt these things, but they were tiny details, drowned out by her sheer terror.

The landscape was a savanna.  There were open spaces of grasses dotted with the giant bushes. Photo by Ndumiso Silindza.

She ran towards the sun.  She turned her head now and then, scanning for landmarks.  Anything familiar.  The landscape was a savanna.  There were open spaces of grasses dotted with the giant bushes.  Where the ground rose, there were trees.  Trees as wide as a landing rocket and tall as a resi tower.  On the hilltops, the trees grew in copses, but on the flats they grew singly.

The ground shook with the footfalls of the beast.  The intelligent part of her brain–the part that was good at math and navigation–told her that made no sense.  Even a creature eight-meters tall should not make the ground shake this far ahead of it.  She had stopped screaming after the first fifty meters, but some part of her brain, the wild, animal part, still screamed louder than the intelligent part of her brain.  Her burning lungs could barely keep the oxygen flowing, oxygen she needed to feed the muscles in her legs.

The ground shook with the footfalls of the beast.

She ran, following the sun.  It was the only guide back to her hidey-hole.  She had gone foraging for food.  She had carefully noted her surroundings, even left poles of broken branches in the grassy places to guide her back.  But she had gotten turned around.

She had blundered across the beast at a watering hole.  The pond was wide and deep.  The water almost clear.  Thrace had dipped her canteen in the water, filled it and stood sealing the top.  That’s when she noticed the water dripping eight meters from . . . from what?  No tree branches were that low.  From the bushes surrounding the pond?  She looked across the pond, to her right, and saw it.  A dark-blue reptile standing eight meters tall with slashes of dark brown and pale yellow giving it some camouflage.  They both stood frozen while the last remaining gouts of water streamed from its mouth.

“Ahhhh . . .” Thrace said to no one.

The beast leaned forward and opened its mouth wide, letting out the first bellow.  Thrace had fallen backwards from the force and covered her ears.  Then she had been scrambling backwards on hands and feet.  Somehow, she had risen to her feet and begun running.  Running into the sun.  She turned her head once and saw the beast leap.

It did not run around the pond or through it.  It just leapt over the pond, landing where Thrace had stood!

Thrace had run straight across the open grassland, and the thing sprinted after her at an amazing speed.  Thrace slid under the first bush she reached and crawled to the other side.  The bush only slowed the beast a breath.  If not for the one tree on a rise and the bushes surrounding it, the beast would have caught Thrace quickly.

“It’s a sprinter,” the intelligent part of her brain said.

On the open flats of the grassland, the beast could sprint at full speed on two giant legs.  It could leap over lower bushes and tear its way through all but the densest undergrowth.  Really, there was nowhere that it could not go.

That’s why Thrace had to find her hidey-hole.  It was the only safe place.

Photo by Sharon Harvey.

Thrace had worked out a system of running along the higher ground, around the giant trees, all too tall and smooth to climb, and keeping bushes between her and the blue nightmare.

She learned its patterns.  When it saw her, it bellowed and then charged at a sprint.  The full force of that bellow reduced prey to quivering jelly.  But the taller rises slowed its speed, and it could not turn easily.  She avoided the open grasses and constantly changed course to avoid both the direct power of its bellow and its straight-line sprint.

Humans are apex predators.  Humans can run long distances.  Given enough time, ancient humans could run any prey to ground, no matter its size, strength or speed.  Thrace knew these things.  But those human hunters were adults in the prime of life with years of running experience.  Thrace was a school kid who liked to shirk her turns at the shipboard cycles so she could read about theropods of the Cretaceous.

She changed direction again and her school bag lurched to the right and her canteen thumped hard against her thigh.  The bag contained the food she had gathered–some mushroom-like fungi and a cluster of tiny, purple flowers–and the canteen held the only water she had had in days.  She needed the food and water almost as much as she needed to escape her pursuer.  She did not have the time to ditch either, and she needed them to survive.

That’s why Thrace had to find her hidey-hole.  It was the only safe place.

Then she saw it.  A broken branch on that tree off to the side.  She recognized it!  She recalled passing almost underneath that broken branch.  She remembered thinking it would make a good landmark to guide her home.  And she had been right.

She was close to her hidey-hole.  No more than a five-minute walk.

The beast was crashing through a copse of bushes.  It breathed hard and did not bellow.  Was that because it could not see her yet or because it was winded?  Not for the first time, she wished with all her being that the beast would tire and go away.  Or that some other creature would wander across their winding path and distract the beast.  Or that she had some camouflage, even some plain, brown clothing to blend into the brush.  Her blue-and-yellow cadet uniform was as obvious as a supernova among the savanna’s shades of brown and tan.

The intelligent part of Thrace’s brain told her the color may not matter.  The beast could be color blind.  Or maybe it could see her in infrared.  Or maybe it relied on sound and smell to find its prey.  However it sensed her, she had tried standing still and silent, and it had not worked.

Thrace ran along the edge of a copse of bushes.  She could make it now.  She knew she could.  And with this realization, her adrenaline seemed to flag, and she realized how truly tired she was.  There, in the open, she saw a branch she had planted like a flagpole in the tall grass.  She kept to the top of the slope, as high as the trees and brush allowed, and headed towards the hill ahead that she thought she recognized.  Underneath that hillock was her hidey-hole and on the other side, in the wide grasslands, was the wreckage of the ship.

Photo by Toby Wong.

She ran left down the slope, not directly towards the hillock, and she heard the beast roar.  She veered sharply to the right, before the rush of air and the strongest vibrations of that roar reached her.  It began its charge down the slope and she could feel the thunder of its feet vibrating the ground even though she flew so fast it seemed her feet barely touched the ground.  The sweaty hair on the nape of her neck stood on end.  Her adrenaline was back, but it could not last long.

“I don’t belong here!  I just want to go home!” she screamed with her mind.  “Just leave me alone.  Let me go!  You don’t belong here either!”

Thrace leapt the hillock top and slid down the far side.  The ground was littered with sunburnt leaves and they carried her nearly to the base of the hill.  The beast was just on the other side of the hillock and the hill was not tall enough to curb its momentum.  Still sliding, Thrace spun and scrabbled on hands and knees towards the hole dug into the base of the hill.

Teeth as long as Thrace’s arm jutted from a blood-red mouth.

The beast, a smooth-skinned reptile of blue, yellow and brown, exploded through the brush at the top of the hillock.  Teeth as long as Thrace’s arm jutted from a blood-red mouth.

Thrace squirted into the hole and tumbled into the natural cavity she had spent days widening.  She crabwalked backwards until her back hit the rough rock wall.  She hugged her school bag and covered her face.

There was nothing else to do but wait.  Wait and hope the beast was not good at digging.

She kept waiting for its yellow-slitted eye to appear at the end of the tunnel. Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw.

Thrace shook uncontrollably. Why had she dug the opening so wide?  For more light?  How stupid!  Why had she not dug the tunnel deeper before widening the hidey-hole?  Now, because she had wanted more light and space, she would die at the claws or teeth of this dinosaur-age monstrosity.

But she did not die.  She shook silently and she listened.  At first, the beast landed beyond the hillock and its thundering steps receded.  Thrace cried silently, knowing it would return.  And it did.  It scratched and snuffed along the base of the hillock.  She kept waiting for its yellow-slitted eye to appear at the end of the tunnel, but it never did.  She heard heavy breathing and snuffling.  Then a sort of bellowing snort, but not the full-strength bellow that preceded the beast’s sprinting charge.

Eventually, the too-heavy footsteps receded.  Thrace broke down.  A full-blown, shaking, crying, gibbering, snot-flying break down she had not had since she was very small.  No, no, she had never had an episode this bad because she had never truly feared for her life before.

Eventually, she slept.  Then she drank.  Then she ate.  When her meager supply was gone, she blew her nose, wiped her eyes, and cleaned herself up.

And her brain said a theropod did not belong on a planet with small, precise purple flowers. Photo by Kenny Luo.

Finally, Thrace’s thinking brain reasserted itself.  It was a brilliant brain.  A brain so quick and sharp and crammed full of knowledge of the universe that she had been accepted as a cadet two years early.  And her brain said a theropod did not belong on a planet with small, precise purple flowers or even a wide savanna.  She could name ten planets that proved her point.

Maybe that was something she could work with.  Maybe not.

Either way, she had work to do.  She looked around her hidey-hole and catalogued the scant tools she had scavenged from the wreck.  She nodded, a plan taking shape.


Thrace fixed a rag to her makeshift spear. She approached the entrance to her hidey-hole, gripping her knife, inclining her ear beyond the tunnel.

“Consider your surroundings,” she said to herself, repeating her training. “Consider your needs. Consider all things before you proceed.”

She inhaled deeply as the tall grass whispered beyond the cavern. A faint hiss crept closer. Then it stopped. A second passed. The hiss reappeared. The beast was out there. Waiting. Watching. Breathing.

Consider your surroundings. Check.

She inhaled deeply as the tall grass whispered beyond the cavern. Photo by Sharon Harvey.

Her brain analyzed her plan. The knife should be enough, but she doused the rag in fuel, just in case. Grazes bit her knees from where she’d skidded into the cave, but she was ready.

Consider your needs. Check.

That beast doesn’t belong here, she thought. Nothing belongs here. This has to work.

Consider all things before you proceed. Check.

She drew breath, counting down from three … two … one. Thrace pounced into the open.

Thrace shrieked, her roar rivalling the creature’s own as its hulking frame blocked out the sun, casting her in shadow.

The beast’s roar bellowed as it thundered towards her. She struck her blade against the spear. Sparks erupted, setting the rag aflame.

Thrace shrieked, her roar rivalling the creature’s own as its hulking frame blocked out the sun, casting her in shadow. She dropped the rag and opened her arms, welcoming the beast’s jaws before the theropod exploded into a million pixels, along with the grass, the trees, and her hidey-hole.

Alarms shook the sim-suite. A tech removed Thrace’s helmet. Sanitized air filled her lungs.

Admiral Denvers loomed over her with the menace of that creature. “You lost, cadet. And you showed so much promise. Why give up?”

“I didn’t give up,” Thrace said, as nurses stripped her from the haptic suit.

“After all those weeks on the surface,” the Admiral continued, “and the care we took setting up this charade. You know how difficult it is to make a mind like yours believe it’s in another place? Just for you to quit when you got scared. It’s disappointing.”

“I did what you taught me, sir.”

Denvers scowled. “You failed.”

We’re never truly lost if we face our fears.

“No, sir. That beast—I’d seen it before, in a textbook on the Cretaceous period. I knew it didn’t belong there. Neither did I. How else could I explain why no other ships responded to my beacon? The simulation was obvious. So I ended it.”

“You knew?”

“‘Consider all things before you proceed.’ Right, sir?”

Denvers raised an eyebrow. “If you’re so smart, why would we go to all this effort if we wanted you to fail?”

Thrace thought for a moment. “This test isn’t about endurance. It’s about knowing what it’s like to be lost. Sometimes, when we feel lost, we’re in exactly the place we need to be.”

“Is that so?”

Thrace nodded. “We’re never truly lost if we face our fears. Being lost is just the first step towards being found.”

The Admiral smiled. He waved to the tech. “Terminate the Lost Cadet program,” he said. The alarms ceased. “Welcome home, Thrace.”


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Frasier and I wrote together. He’s such a great collaboration partner!

If you enjoyed Frasier’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Here’s the inside scoop on how I chose Frasier’s ending as the winner.

P.P.S. Here’s another great ending written by Frasier Armitage:

Quick and easy explanation of HUDs

To soldiers, information on the battlefield is essential. It’s the best defense and also a good weapon. That’s why soldiers of the future have all their information right at eye level.

Heads-Up Display–a presentation of information directly in the line of sight of a pilot or driver, often by projecting the information on a windshield, visor or other transparent screen.

The first HUDs were developed for military pilots so they would not have to look away from the horizon or an enemy combatant to read their gauges and other instruments. When you’re flying at 3,000 miles per hour, anything can happen in the flick of an eye.

Now carmakers use HUDs in passenger vehicles to show the driver everything from the vehicle’s speed to the radio station.

Let’s see where Sci Fi writers are placing HUDs.

Cyborg Implants

In Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat, Nephilim belongs to the Guardian Angels of Olympias, an elite combat force of cyborgs. The Angels look like perfectly sculpted humans on the outside, except for their glowing neon eyes. Their limbs are entirely artificial and even their heads are filled with tech, including built-in HUD capabilities.

Cover of "Behind Blue Eyes" by Anna Mocikat. Three Blue Angels, with glowing, blue neon eyes, stand before a cityscape.

“Although the night was tenebrous, Nephilim saw the target location they were advancing on as perfectly as if it were bright daylight. Her artificial eyes were much more than integrated night vision gear. Special software connected to her brain made it possible to see everything clearly with a minimum amount of light, similar to how a cat’s eyes worked. Additionally, she activated a combat heads-up display, known as HUD that appeared directly in her line of sight, which would not only identify targets but prevent friendly fire.”

Now that’s a handy HUD. And for the Angels in Behind Blue Eyes, all their artificial upgrades are hidden inside, beneath the skin, except for their neon blue eyes.