Unsung Heroes: Devon, 2300 AD Chapter 3
By Average Joe
A warm, tingling sensation throughout his entire body stirred Devon from the cold, dark depths of unconsciousness.
"A-am I...? Dead?" he thought. He feared opening his eyes to ascertain whatever fate he met. A slight throbbing of his forehead where the tingling sensation was most intense told him no. "Wh-where am I?" Even in his head, Devon's words were slurred and indistinct.
Devon wished to get up and take a look around, but his muscles would simply not respond. He made an attempt to open his eyes, but no matter how much he tried, his eyelids still held their dark veil over his vision. A feeling of helplessness and fear slowly arose in him in response to the lack of response in his body.
The lack of firm weight in his environment also disturbed him. Though he felt something soft at his back, he could not feel his weight pressing into it as much as he should have. He took comfort in the fact that there was a solid object nearby, yet not enough comfort to calm him completely.
Another thing was beginning to disturb him. Where was his pack? Had he lost it yet again?
Upon thinking this he realized that there was a measure of pressure on one part of his body: his chest. He felt a soft, roughly circular imprint on his chest. The slight awakening of feelings in his arms clued him in to the truth: he held his bundle in a death grip, wherever he was. His mind relaxed a bit when he knew that the seeds were safe.
As a sore, aching sensation started replacing the warm, tingling sensation all over his body Devon heard a muffled unemotional voice filter in to him from somewhere. "Ellyewer ee-yemmerayun mrossess umbleat. Um-mencing sessayun uh ravidic uh-penshun." Devon felt something like a high wind or rushing water, and starting from his head and moving to his feet he began to feel his weight press down on the surface behind him in a way that he knew he was laying diagonally. "Commencing shutdown of electrostatic moto-neural suppressors. Conscious control of ambulatory appendages shall be available to the biologic on the mark. Three, two, one, mark." Devon felt a surge run through his legs as all of his leg muscles tightened, then relaxed. He mentally breathed a sigh of grateful relief as he wiggled all of his toes. "Conscious control of manipulatory appendages available in three, two, one, mark." His arms went through the same process of surge, flex, relax, and he made his fingers do wavelike motions as he clung to the bundle still in his arms. "Torso and head control available in three, two, one, mark." Devon's abdominal, chest, back, and face muscles surged, flexed and relaxed. Devon's eyes fluttered open when he realized that the squinting he was doing now was of his own design. "Matching external ambient air pressure, temperature, and humidity." A few moments passed by, allowing Devon's eyes to begin to adjust to the brightness of the world beyond the viewing window of whatever encapsulated area he was in. A vent above him exhaled a warm, moist breath before the disembodied voice spoke again. "Restoring vertical position to the biologic." The surface he lay upon vibrated a moment before humming into a vertical position, forcing Devon to his feet. Devon was only groggily beginning to be able to process the view he had been taking in since opening his eyes. "Opening cellular regeneration chamber doors. Total time from initiation to shutdown, thirteen hours, forty-seven minutes, twenty-three point two five five seconds. Have a nice day."
In front of him the wall with the viewing window hissed and split open in a burst of steam. Devon stumbled out in a confused stupor. He shook his throbbing head and turned to see what he had stumbled out of. An inkling of reason forced its way past animal instinct and Devon pointed at the bullet-shaped capsule and stated, "Enertron." Shaking his head once more, it seeped into his mind that the thing he had returned from the dead in was in fact a familiar piece of technology. Finding that reason was becoming an ever more controlling force, Devon surmised that it would be reasonable to stop for a moment to consider the turn of events.
A bump on the head that he thought was minor turned out to be fairly major after he went through some serious physical and emotional strain. The blood loss made him pass out... and then he was here. No attempt at recollection could dig up a memory of him stumbling into an Enertron capsule and turning it on. No, everything was black. There was the rat, his pack, his black, blood-soaked hand bathed in green light, and then black. He turned himself around twice to see if anyone was there with him.
"Hello? Is... Is anyone there? Hello?" he called out. "Thank you, whoever you are..." he added softly.
Devon glanced about, making an attempt at attaining his bearings. A small pile of rubble lay directly in front of him on the floor of the building, with another, smaller, scattered pile next to it. Off to his right was the entrance of the building, and the sunlight pouring in was only slightly enhanced by the green light dangling from the cieling. The distinctive plink, splash, plink, splash rhythm of water falling onto a metal surface and then to the floor tried to fill in the painful emptiness of total silence.
"I'm still in that dome..." Devon thought. "There must have been an Enertron capsule in the shadows that I didn't see." Devon slowly tested his body by walking over to the puddle of water, taking note of the dried pool of blood and drip marks that made a trail from the entrance to the back. "I must have been hurt pretty bad... That's an awful lot of blood... How...?" Devon stopped at the puddle of water and hunched over to rinse his hands and face of caked-on blood. He then sat down and untied the corners of his blanket from each other. He smoothed it out and removed his fork, his two remaining bars of compressed nutrients, and the seeds from his small, dented pot. He placed the pot directly beneath the dripping water and collected his change of clothes.
The hollow thunk of droplets of water landing in an empty metal container gradually shifted to a satisfying splash as Devon changed his clothes. He took a moment to look at his shirt and tattered cloak. A dark brown stain spread down the backs of them both, causing the dirty, light brown material to look even more pitiable. He shrugged and tossed his shirt back onto his blanket. He considered merely turning the cloak inside out before refastening it, but the stain had seeped all the way through. Sighing, Devon tied the corners together again in the same fashion that it had been before.
He found a seat on the blanket, picking up one of the nutrient bars with one hand while toying with a tiny orange ball of blanket lint with the other. Devon considered just eating his nutrient bar straight, as he had done with the first one the day before, but then a grander idea filtered into his head. He placed the nutrient bar in the bottom of his pot and picked up his fork. After allowing the water to soften it a bit, Devon started mashing the bar in a hash mark pattern with the tines of his fork. After it dissolved to a certain consistency, Devon began stirring the goopy mess. When it had become a thin soup, Devon put the pot to his lips and drank.
Though it was cold, had the bitter tang of corroded metal, and the bland, starchy taste of pure nutrition without the added benefit of flavor, the meal went down easily. No one from Arris ever refused a meal and drink, for anything edible, however unpalatable, was in short supply. The only person he knew to refuse a meal was his brother Toma, when Devon was gravely ill.
Devon reflected on the memories of Toma offering him all of his food as he finished his meal. He dried out his pot with a corner of his blanket and wiped off his fork with his shirt. His eyes burned with unshed tears as he gathered his possessions into a neat pile in the center of his blanket. "Toma," he whispered as he knotted the blanket corners together. He picked up the bundle and slung it over his right shoulder, and proceeded to head toward the entrance.
When Devon had reached roughly two steps away from the doorframe, an upside-down human head swung down from above. Devon yelped and stepped back. The head blinked twice, and then the body that was attached to it swung down as well. Devon's legs wanted to run past the young boy that now dangled by his arms from the overhang outside, but his animal instincts wanted to hide in the darkest part of the back of the room. These two conflicting ideas landed Devon on his backside on the floor. The boy let go of his perch, dropped to his hands and feet on the ground, and then stood.
Devon motioned for the boy to stay where he was. A curious expression passed over his face before Devon asked, "Are--are you th-the one that saved me last night?"
The boy furrowed his bushy red eyebrows as if in deep thought, pondering the words that Devon had just spoken. A few moments later the boy simply pointed at Devon, and then at the Enertron. The boy scratched his head in roughly the same location that Devon's wound had been the night before. He licked his lips, squinted his eyes, opened his mouth, closed it again, and after some effort, the boy managed to slowly say, "Hurt."
Devon nodded, using his left arm to prop himself up. He took a moment to fully assess the boy. The boy looked to be around twelve to fourteen, five years or better younger than Devon, and stood about a handsbreath shorter than Devon. He wore the same dirty tattered cloth that all dome-dwellers did, but the boy's garments were ill-fitting, as if he had grown out of them years ago but continued to wear them. His dirty red hair was matted, but still had a slight bushiness to it. He was skinny, the base of his ribs protruding just beneath the shredded shirt he wore, yet he had a sort of wiry strength to him. Devon doubted that he would be the victor should the boy wish to attack him.
The feral youth took a step closer as Devon tried to get to his feet, but Devon again gave him the signal to stop. The boy stuck out his hand, open palm face up. Devon looked at the small, dirty hand for a moment before realizing he wanted to help Devon to his feet. Devon nodded and put out his arm in the standard request for assistance to one's feet.
The boy pulled Devon to his feet with ease, and Devon quietly marveled at the youth's strength. "You have a name, kiddo?" Devon cringed slightly at hearing himself utter the term of endearment that his older brother was so fond of using on him. Memories of his brother's death alone in the basement of the Information Center flooded him.
The boy looked concerned for a moment, then deep in thought and shook his head. Devon sighed and patted the boy's head. "How 'bout I just call you 'Red,' in honor of your hair?" Again the boy appeared to be deep in thought, as if spoken language was something he had not encountered for years.
The boy nodded.
"Well then, Red it is. I'm Devon," he finished, placing his hand on his chest when he said his name. Devon was incredibly grateful to see a human face in the unforgiving wasteland of Lab Sixteen. He did not care too much to delve into the boy's--"Red's," Devon reminded himself--motives for helping him, he was just glad to have a companion. Besides, he was uncertain if Red would be able to explain his past and present situation, and even more unsure if he would be able to understand him; Red had enough difficulty explaining to Devon what had happened the night before.
"I have to go somewhere, Red," Devon told his newfound friend. He walked past the boy and out of the dome. He looked down at his shadow and put together the pieces of the puzzle. "It's morning, and I figure I'm about halfway through here," he shuddered, thinking about where "here" was, "so the way I figure it, I've gotta go..." Devon made some quick mental calculations. "That way," Devon pointed south, off to his left.
Red watched with a perplexed look as the young man talked to himself. The only thing he truly understood was when he pointed south. That must be where the man was headed. Red dashed past him, and leapt from the pitched corner of one demolished stair to the next, until he was on level ground.
"Amazing," Devon mused. "Hopefully this kid'll help me through the final stretch of Sixteen. From what those three people said, a whole bunch of monsters infested the--ugh--southernmost area," he grunted as he carefully climbed down the stairs. "I dunno if I'd be able to take even one of them myself. This--urgh, stupid rock--kid seems to be able to handle himself pretty well."
When Devon had also found his way down, Red marched southward in a jaunty fashion. Devon chuckled to himself while he watched the lad swing his arms and march straight-legged and wondered if he ever had that sort of youthful enthusiasm in his past.
Together the two headed south, a plucky youth simply known as "Red" leading another young man named Devon through the daytime streets of a post-apocalyptic city.
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