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  • Michael Travis

Neon Odyssey - 5

Arax woke up to the rattling and clanking sounds, not angry one bit since this was the best sleep he got in months. He opened one eye and saw Kean going through things in the scrap pile. He had a cloth towel spread out in the middle of the room and was putting things on it. He spotted Arax being awake and continued.

“I woke up early and couldn't sleep so I went through our things gathering anything useful.” Kean proclaimed while checking the pockets of an old duster he dug up. He then put the duster on, slightly big but was good fabric with pockets.

“Very good, let's see what you got.” Arax got up slowly. His body was full of cramps and still asleep. He walked over and looked at things Kean had gathered.

“We have to travel light and some of that we have no use for.” Arax began setting some of the things aside, one of the things set aside was an old mechanical watch. Kean grabbed it and strapped it to his wrist.

“That rusty old thing?” Arax asked.

“Old world watches like this can fetch a good penny.” Kean noted while adjusting the strap on his small wrist.

“Does it even work?”

“Not yet but I want to fix it”

“Ok, you can hold on to it” Arax continued to move things to the side leaving only a few things among which was a pocket multitool, metal cup, a thermal tarp and a backpack. Arax took the thermal tarp, examined it, put it in the back pack and handed it to Kean.

“Those will be useful, rest is junk.” Arax said with authority and went to gather his things. Kean looked at things on the side with a bit of frown. He was saddened about the realization of leaving this place and all the work that he has done, the junk would fetch a good penny but Arax was right that it would be too much to carry.

“Is there any food here?” Arax asked Kean.

“There are a few pieces of jerky and a cereal bar in the cooler box but the rest was on the mule. We were planning to head back to the city tomorrow.”

“Better than nothing, fill your canteen up, get the food and let's head upstairs.” Arax fixed his canteen strapping it over his shoulder, put on his jacket, picked up belongings and left the room. Kean filled his canteen, put on the duster, rifle with a makeshift shoulder strap and the backpack now filled with goods then hurried behind Arax.

“Give me that multitool.” Arax went up the stairs and stopped at the booby trap.

Kean handed it to him and watched Arax skillfully disarm the trap and take out the explosive charge. Arax then grabbed the towel out of the kid's hand and wrapped the explosive package.

“You have to be really careful with this type of explosive” He then carefully put it in his shoulder bag and handed the multitool back to the kid. Then hurried upstairs and looked up the roof access hatch. Rays of light were coming through holes in the metal door blasted by the drones. Arax had to force the door open with a grunt and both of them emerged to the outside.

It was still cold but the sun was already on the horizon so things were warming up. Arax told the kid to stay down while he made sure no bandits or drones were on the horizon. They went on to examine the greenhouse garden; not much left between the attack and weather destruction.

Gather any alive plants you can and put them into this device” Arax took the thermos device, opened it and placed it on the ground. You check the greenhouse over there and I will check one here. Arax has managed to gather a handful of plants and was putting them into thermos when he saw Kean emerge with a good handful.

“Excellent! This will yield us a few meals.” Filling thermos almost to the top and topping it off with water. He sealed the lid and turned it on.

“Cool! How does it work?” Kean asked.

“It breaks down plants and organisms that might be harmful or inedible into paste that is nutritious and harmless. What you saw me eat earlier used to be sprouts and toxic worms just hours before.” Arax explained.

“Now, let's go down and look at that drone and your mule bot.”

They made their way down the treads and out onto the desert floor. Arax with a slightly less noticeable limp and the kid behind him making their way towards the scene of the ambush. Kean was feeling uneasy about going back there. Yet he needed to bury his keepers, they were good to him.

The first stop was a downed drone, it was a good size machine and too heavy to be carried. Either way it was blasted to good and in no way repairable out here. Arax examined it closely, and as he began flipping it over. The drone lit up and engaged one of the still functioning propellers. Kean jumped back letting out an odd shriek. Drone began turning its turret to aim at Kean and Arax was swift to step on the barrel, light of blasts flashed as the drone fired into the sand. Arax putting his weight on the drone pulled out his pistol and unloaded the remaining charges into the drone disabling it. Sparks flying, Arax stepped back as the drone engulphed in flame.

“Run!” Arax shouted. And both of them ran and dove down the dune rolling down and covering their heads at the bottom. A few seconds later a huge explosion rattled behind them followed by a downfall of sand avalanche almost burying them.

“There goes the ammo scavenging operation” Arax proclaimed, after digging himself out of sand and getting up. He then helped Kean out as he was noticeably shocked by the events.

“You ok?” He asked Kean.

“I hate those things!” Kean replied in anger and made its way back up the hill to look at the aftermath. Drone left a huge crater and nothing else.

“Don’t get too close, the energy cells those things use are toxic” Arax said and they made their way around and went towards mule bot and the keeper further away. As they were walking closer they noticed something was off and Kean ran forward towards his keepers. Arax observed him get ahead and then drop to his knees in front.

“Sam! Jim!...Aren!” Kean shouted. Arax caught up to him and looked at where bodies used to be; what was left were blood stained sand and torn clothing…nothing else. He put his hand on Kean’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry kid” he paused, “The mutants must have got the bodies.”

“No! They must have escaped!” Kean protested in disbelief. Then dropped to his knees and started weeping.

“Not possible, they perished when I saw them.” Arax examined the areas where bodies were. There was a trail in the sand leading to where bodies were dragged off.

“I wanted to bury them, they were good to me.” Kean said, wiping off his tears. Arax gave him a moment then shook his shoulder”

“We have to get going.” He said calmly and made his way towards the downed mule bot and began examining it. Kean joined him soon after.

“At least we don’t have to worry about turrets with this one.” Arax said over the still smoldering robotic carcass. Half of the goods were burned up, the other half scattered around from the blast, a bag, a case and the rest were salvaged electronics.

“Argh! This is not the supply mule bot.” Kean said, frowning.

“This is Sam’s scavenge mule, she put mostly salvage; wires and electronics into this one.” He said while Arax was going around kicking items around looking for anything useful.

“What's this case? It looks old” Arax asked, spotting a shiny small metal case half buried in the sand.

“It’s old world, we can't open it”

Arax picked up the case and examined it. It looked pristine, fairly sophisticated and secure.

“Titanium, old world markings. We can try to figure this one out later.” Arax proclaimed, putting the case in his bag. Kean nodded.

Arax then took out his monocular and climbed on top of the downed bot and looked around. Kean was looking at him wondering what the plan was. Arax then climbed back down and crouched next to the kid then began to draw on the sand with his hand.

“We are here.” He made a dot in the sand.

“I came from the south and spotted the drones heading south-west” He continued drawing on the sand.

“I was heading north but it is an open wasteland for miles and we will be spotted by drones. To the west looks like there are hills and a mountain ridge along with some trees & what looks like ruins; we can take cover from drones much easier. There is only one problem” He got up and erased the sand map with his foot.

“Your friends' bodies were dragged in that direction” He concluded and looked at Kean who contemplated for a few seconds and then stood up and firmly looked at Arax.

“Lets go” Kean adjusted his makeshift rifle strap with a bit of anxiety. Covered his head with a towel to protect from the fast rising sun and they headed out.

© M.A.Travis

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