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  • Michael Travis

Neon Odyssey - 7


By this time Arax and Kean were in the ditch long enough for a thin layer of sand to cover them so they are invisible in the storm. After a few minutes of looking around the figure threw something on the ground and went back inside the vehicle. The engine started roaring again and the vibration started shaking sand off, they stood still. Voice came out of the speaker in the distance.

“Boss, we can’t see anything out here!”

“Alright!” Rusty electric voice came out of the vehicle in front of them and continued.

“Nobody can survive in this for long! We’ll come back after the storm and scan for the kids body”

“Boss, what do you want us to do with the one we picked up?”

“Keep him alive, I have questions when he wakes up! Let's head out!” The boss concluded and the roaring convoy took off.

As soon as the roaring convoy was far enough Arax got up and pulled on Kean’s shoulder who would not budge at first. He had to then force his shoulder over with a firm stare and a hand gesture to move out; eventually Kean did.

They wandered for some time until they stumbled onto a steep canyon with remnants of a creek below. They got down to the bottom and followed south along one side until Arax stumbled upon a small passage into what looked like a cave in the rocky face. Arax gestured to Kean and they went inside. It was pitch black inside and although they still heard the muffled sound of the storm outside there was no sand getting in.

Arax produced his torch light and placed it onto a boulder illuminating the entirety of the small cave. He shook sand off and began unwrapping his head. Kean did the same and then sat looking down into the ground. Arax sat across from him, took sips from his flask and waited for Kean to talk.

“One of my keepers is alive.” Kean mumbled. "We don’t know that, this could be a trick.” Arax replied. “They said ‘him’ which means it's not Samantha. Must be Jim or Aren” Kean continued seemingly ignoring Arax’s question. “Even if they are keeping him alive long enough to interrogate, we stand no chance against the bandits.” Arax declared. “I have to go back. I owe this to them.” Kean said as he looked up at Arax. “I have to do this! I don’t need your help!” He continued and abruptly stood up determined to leave. Arax looked at him and saw that the kid was serious, he then also stood up and put his hand on Kean’s shoulder. “Sit down kid. I will help, let’s rest and think of a plan first.” “I know who the man in the mask is.” Kean said. “You do?” “That is Scar! He is the leader of the Bone Bandits and wears a skull mask to cover up a hideous scar. They say he got the scar from taking on three mutants barehanded. Those bandits are horrible! I was an orphan in my village when they pillaged it. They went door to door and rounded up all of us in the village center. They took all the adults with them in cages as slaves and they made us go into houses to steal for them; valuables and food from the houses. They beat the kids who brought the least, and then they blew up our water well and left us and the elders to die.” Kean said. “Sounds like a bad bunch, you made it out but what about others?” Arax said. “The older kids were smart enough to hide some of the food. They took a beating but they saved us. We then listened and followed the elders direction to fix the water well and managed to survive and even live well for several years until the bandits returned. Surprised to find us older and striving, the skull mask was angry and burned the village to the ground. Myself and a few others managed to escape together but I do not know what happened to the rest.”

Arax shook his head at the atrocities and they both were silent for a while. They rested and rejuvenated with water and a snack. Arax was tinkering and cleaning the robotic hand which intrigued Kean. “Is it broken?” Kean asked. “Software got corrupted and I don’t have a backup so it cannot be used” Arax replied as he was blowing dust particles off of it. “It must be heavy, why drag it around if it does not work?” “Oh it works great, I just need to find a way to debug or reinstall the software” “The Bone Bandits might have something like that in their base!” Kean proclaimed. “They might, good idea kid. Keep an eye out for computer rooms.” Arax replied and went on thinking for a while. “The box seems to be very valuable to them. We should hide it here in this cave in case we get caught to use it as leverage.” Arax said, laying out the plan. “They will not come back out here without the drones to do a search and it will take several days for them to recharge the drones. This will give us time to get to their base and once they get their convoy out on their search mission we will sneak in and search for your friend. Maybe we can also find out what this precious box is about in there.” He concluded. Kean smiled and thanked Arax for helping him with the plan to rescue his friend. They decided to wait out the storm and rest to regain strength. The following morning they stashed the box in the cave and went outside. The sand storm has cleared but the clouds of dust and smog from the storm remained in the sky. Arax noted that this is good since it will block out the sun for the next few days. This will be enough for them to travel safely during the day. The temperature was cooler and much more manageable as well; however, breathing was rough. Arax noted the location of the cave and the canyon as it relates to any landmarks. They did see the pillar far in the distance back where they came from. “Ok, let's head back there and see if we can find the bandit tracks.” Arax said and they headed out. Landscape was a bit different now after the storm but they were able to spot the ditch with shrubbery that they hid in. Kean noticed a shiny object sticking out of the sand, he went to it and picked up an aluminum can which was now empty. Kean examined the cylinder with markings on it; he has never seen such an object. “That is a soda drink. It is an expensive old world delicacy made by Thea Monks.” Arax said after seeing the can. “Might come in handy.” Kean announced and put the can in his bag. Arax shrugged at the kid collecting garbage and proceeded to examine the vehicle tracks nearby. The vehicle that the masked man was in must have been a hovercraft since it left a clear depression in the sand. Rest of the tracks were hard to see and mostly covered by sand from the storm. “Looks like they went south, this roughly matched the direction that I saw the drones fly to before. Let's go.” Arax said and they proceeded to follow the tracks. Walk was long and Kean was asking more questions about Earth and where Arax came from. Arax said that several hundred years ago after the catastrophe, humanity decided that the Earth was no longer safe to live on. They gathered all remaining resources and sent out colonies to space. The departed broke into four colonies. The first colony decided to establish themselves on what remained of the moon. The second established an orbiting station over the earth. Both of those did this because they thought they could go back to earth after a few years. Third was a colony on Mars. And the fourth colony went towards Titan.

In the beginning the colonies worked together to survive but then the mistrust between colonies began, colonies stopped sharing information and eventually it turned into conflicts. Moon and orbit colonies went to war with each other and the orbiting station perished into an orbiting coffin devoid of life. Communication with the moon station was lost and assumed to have perished as well.

The main cause of the tensions was because virtually all people across colonies started to become sicker and sicker. Birth rates became worse and worse over the years and nobody could figure out why. The scientists do what they can to keep people alive through cybernetics and other ways but if nothing changes the colonies are going to go extinct. The colonists were so busy staying alive that they had forgotten about Earth and had no idea that beings and even humans survived and lived here until recently.

Arax’s colony was called Delos and it is the one that went to Titan. Their scientists, desperate for answers, sent expeditions to Earth. They were shocked to find out that the Earth was habitable and that there are people still able to survive.

After talking with the locals they were given ancient digital texts of the old world which mentioned secret knowledge that was researched prior to the catastrophe. The text was saying that humans were never meant to leave earth and that the microbiome is essential to human reproduction and longevity in space. There was mention of research to overcome those difficulties.

This text must have been of the ancient men that decided to stay on Earth. The remaining humans used underground labs to study and develop this research. Those people are long gone but knowledge for colony survival is still out there.

The expedition was heading back to Titan and was intercepted by the Mars colony and they are now out to stop us and to gain this knowledge for themselves.

Kean ate up the information but noticed that Arax was getting a bit out of breath and stopped asking questions for the remainder of the day and as the night came and through the haze they noticed a structure in the distance lit up with electric lights.

“This is it!” Arax said.

© M.A.Travis

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