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  • Michael Travis

Neon Odyssey - 1

A silhouette is scattering down a sandy hill kicking up sand and dust of what used to be a great nation. This nation and the whole planet used to be bountiful, orderly and prosperous. Now it is a dangerous, barren rock governed by anarchy. Unexplained weather phenomena, radiation, strange creatures, robotic beings, cannibals, digressors, scavengers and knowledge seekers all roam this land seeking things out of greed, instinct or madness.

The silhouette stops and looks down the horizon as a sliver of the morning sun begins to appear, already warming the air. “Time to seek shelter” The silhouette murmurs to itself slightly opening dry lips as it starts to adjust the loose head wraps. Figure was of a decent stature and broad shouldered man, face still covered in rags wrapped around the head with only leather goggles sticking out. A brown leather jacket and a bag over the shoulder braced by the right hand. Left hand flaccid, as if broken. Charred black fingers on the left hand, metallic; a robotic hand. Sandy cargo pants with several pockets and tall boots complete the ensemble of a traveling nomad. Figure walked with an obvious limp in a tired fashion.

Suddenly a buzzing noise in the distance; the figure turns its head.

“Drones? This far out?” He wonders.

Quickly he turns looking out in the distance in various directions, searching for cover from exposure in this expanse. Mostly sand, few dead trees, foundations of a long collapsed building. He spots what looks to be remnants of a highway bridge down a valley about a mile away.

“There, that should give me at least some shadow and cover.”

He hurries towards the ruin as the buzzing starts to get louder.

“They are heading this way, that’s not good. Are they searching for me?”

Buzzing keeps increasing and he now begins to gallop ignoring the pain, stumbling and struggling to get up using just his right hand. He eventually makes it under the shadow of the bridge and slips under the collapsed concrete slab and pile of rubble.

Shortly the drones appeared from behind a dune. In the shadows, the nomad took down the goggles and pulled out a digital monocular to get a better look. There were three of them, medium sized quad blade drones. Glistening dome tops reflecting and bouncing the sun around them, equipped with surveying equipment. His eyes widened, he knew those drones well; having repaired and tested the exact models while in captivity. The drones were equipped with weapons and he knew he had no chance against them, especially with limited ammunition charges and a dysfunctional aiming hand. There was only one course of action here; hide.

He observed the drones quietly as they moved down the valley with a hand on the gun just in case they discovered him. He kept watching the drones to note any identification markings. On the sides he saw numbers; R12, R14, R15. Those were just serial numbers, meaningless. As he was about to put down his observing device when he saw something on the back of one of the drones; a painted white skull.

“Urban bandits! But out here in the desert?” He thought to himself.

“Must be either rogue or after something important”

He waited long enough until it was clear and right as he was about to get up he noticed something under his feet as he lifted his foot. It was a small sprout of a plant. His eyes widened.

“What's this? A plant?” He reached into his bag and pulled out a thermos shaped device out of his bag, twisting off top revealed an opening. He plucked the sprout with roots attached, placed it into a device and began looking around.

“There must be more around here” he hoped. Surely enough, he spotted another and then another totaling five sprouts that he plucked and placed into the thermos. Added some water from his flask then closed it and ran his fingers on the digital screen.

“Now let's see if you can make me a nice lunch.” Arax whispered with a grin.

“Processing!” The device suddenly proclaimed, and at fear of being heard by drones Arax shoved the device under his clothes. He then listened and looked for the drones until it seemed safe and put the device in his bag.

The device was a nutrition decomposer which he got through a regretful trade. This was a few months back when he stumbled onto a scavengers base. They offered him the nutrition decomposer and all he had to do was let them copy the software from his arm. The machine they used either malfunctioned or had a virus; basically rendering his arm’s AI useless. There was nothing he could do but at least they gave him the device.

He was able to tinker with the device but had no idea if the device worked since he had not stumbled onto any organic matter other than his own skin and bones since then. This find was in good time since he ran out of food some time ago. The scavengers told him that the device worked by decomposing organic matter into nutritious paste allowing for proper digestion. The device typically takes several hours to decompose matter and uses water to do so. Thankfully he still had enough water to use with the device but the water was running low as well; a risk he was willing to take.

Drones were now gone but still buzzing in the distance. He decided to wait out a bit longer and reached into his jacket pulling out a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it, revealing a roughly sketched map with scribbled notes on it and after some time he started reminiscing.

“The old world science library is still far away. I must be the last of the expedition, I must reach it for the Clan's sake…even if it's a few years late” He turned the map over and read the note written on the back one more time; despite already having it engraved in memory.

“Arax, I looted this map from the leader of the Martian expedition after their failed ambush. We were able to fight them off and kill the leader but they got Garry and the rest of us are pinned down and wounded. Some of them fled and are likely to return with reinforcements. We must retreat, carry Walt back to the ship and return to base for medical attention. We cannot risk what we already gathered. We cannot leave the ship and what we found to them, I know you will understand. We are leaving you this map with a randevu point at the Library, you will know how to decode it and some supplies. What we found so far is not enough; we need the artifacts from the Library that Digressors have described. If you are able, try to find your way to the Library and meet us at the randevu point in three months, we are running out of time. Goodluck''

© M.A.Travis


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