Unsung Heroes: Devon, 2300 AD Chapter 5
By Average Joe
"Nice kid," Devon thought. "A bit too into that computer though." Devon shrugged, placing his hands behind his head as he walked down the hall. "Probably because he hasn't had anyone else to talk to. That's probably why he brought me here."
The corridor was quiet, and its tile surface cold. Devon heard only the shuffling of his feet during the entire trek to the dead-end of the hallway. A greyish metal box sat on the floor, just as Red said there would be. A protuberance stuck out at the edge of a basin on the top, and a button was located on the top of it. Devon pressed the button hesitantly, and a gush of water arced out to land in the base of the basin, draining away through six equidistantly spaced holes at the deepest point. Devon tried to slurp up the water before it escaped to places unknown, but was embarassingly unsuccessful.
He pondered for a moment how one was supposed to drink from something like this. Should you press the button, the water would escape down the holes in the bottom. Should you try to capture it with cupped hands, you would have to release the pressure from the button. Using only one hand would not yield enough water to make the attempt worthwhile. The only thing he could come up with was to try to capture the flow in his mouth before it landed.
He was incredibly proud of devising a way to drink from this thing as he took in mouthful after mouthful of cold, clean, sweet tasting water. He had never had water like this in his life, and wished that his dear, sweet Asha could be there with him.
He thought about that for a moment. He left Arris two days previously, yet the memory of the woman he had promised to spend his life with stung bitterly. What especially hurt was the promise he made to her. "You will see my face again. I'll make sure of that," he recalled himself say.
"How can I possibly keep such a promise? It'll be difficult enough for me to just get there, much less get back. And I haven't any food for a return trip... There just wasn't enough to spare..." Devon leaned against a wall, his feet slowly sliding from beneath him until he sat on the ground.
He put the dried meat he had carried from the other room to his mouth and ate without thinking. All of his thoughts strayed home. His beloved Asha, his sister-in-law Lania, and his little niece Serai, who was the daughter of his deceased brother Toma. And his deceased brother Toma, who had fathered no son, and left him to carry on the Levine line. If he was to make it back, he would need to stay at Trann Dome, his destination, until the seeds he carried bore fruit, and there was enough to spare for him to take with him on the return journey to Arris.
By that time, most of his people would have considered him dead. He wondered if Asha would be among them.
A noise startled Devon from his reverie, and he turned and saw Red's head poking out of one of the doorways down the hall.
"I see more of just his head than the entirety of him," Devon mused.
"None here, but it's still not... safe," Red called out.
"Huh?" Devon queried.
Devon pushed himself to his feet and walked down the hall, determined to just go to sleep when he returned to the room.
"Uh, Red?" Devon asked. "Does that computer have any information on how long you've been here?"
Red tapped his fingers on the keyboard and read, "It says that I've been here for about two years. I just know I've been here a long time."
Devon nodded, bunching his extra change of clothes up into a wad beneath his head as he tried to smooth out his blanket.
"Have you ever given thought to leaving? Going back home?" Devon could not see Red's back straighten in response to his question, but he heard the tapping stop.
"I... I..." Red was at a loss for words. How could he explain? "I have everything I need right here," he said hurriedly.
"So you say," Devon thought, "but what about human companionship?" Devon shook his head, loosening his wad of clothes in the process. "You're entirely right," Devon stated aloud. "Food, water, and a safe place to sleep, all right here..." Devon rolled from his back to his side, facing a desk away from Red.
"But if you don't mind," Devon continued, "I'm trying to get to sleep, so try to keep it down."
A corner of his mouth made a half-attempt at trying to smile, even knowing that Devon would be unable to see, and Red shut off the lights via the computer terminal and attempted to type quietly.
A half-hour later Devon tossed in a fitful sleep, and Red continued to converse with his computer with a combination of text, pictures, and numbers.
<And that's what happened. I brought him here because he needed help.> Red typed.
<Are you certain that he needed your assistance?> the computer printed back.
<I explained it to you. He had a huge cut on his head, and he was blacked out. He was just fortunate enough that I happened to be tracking that thing for food. If I hadn't put him in the Enertron, he could have died. He's very lucky.>
The computer's speechtext suddenly shifted to orange, signifying slight irritation. <Yet you failed to catch your prey, and you shared your remaining food with him? With full knowledge that that was the last of your rations?>
Red shifted his text to a pale blue of submission, and added in an icon of cowardice. <Yes to all.>
The computer's text again moved to a calm white. <Check his pack to see if he has any food on him. If he does, it's yours as payment for your services.>
Keeping his text at pale blue he replied, <Yes.> Red got up and examined the small pot that sat next to Devon. Inside he spotted a metal object with four parallel spikes at one end, a couple of small, round objects that might have been pebbles, but he could not tell in the light, and what he knew to be a nutrition bar. Red grimaced, a tear squeezed from his eye as he set the pot down. The man had food.
Red trod slowly back to the computer terminal and sat heavily upon the chair. A wait icon was shifting from orange to an angry red at the end of a sentence. <Well?>
Red's pale blue text was adjusted to a melancholy dark blue as he typed. <He has none.> he lied.
The computer's text was a brilliantly furious crimson as the line flashed, <Then he has stolen from you. He must be punished.>
Red gasped aloud, and turned to see Devon stir from sleep. Red's eyebrows threatened to trade locations on his forehead as he furrowed his brow in fear, desperation, and sadness. He was somewhat relieved to see Devon settle back down into his troubled dreams. Yet when he returned to the screen it was still with a pained expression.
A message waited for him when he came back. <Tomorrow you two will continue your journey, and halfway through the infested area, you will leave him. Let him fend for himself. Otherwise you will not continue to enjoy my assistance.>
Red's next line was such a dark blue that it approached black. <Yes. I understand.>
The computer then shifted to a more consolatory grey-pink. <Hey now. Don't be like that. I'm just looking out for your welfare. I want what's best for you. I don't want you to get hurt like what your father did to you. Now get some rest. You'll need it in the morning.>
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