Unsung Heroes: Devon, 2300 AD Chapter 7
By Average Joe
Red sat perched on a rocky outcrop, his arms wrapped around his knees. He buried his face in the crevice between his knees while sobs racked his body. He shuddered as he heard Devon scream on the opposite side of a rock just behind his back. Chills ran up and down his spine as he realized that Devon must be hurt, and in terrible danger. He tightened his grip on his legs, pulling them closer and burying his face deeper. He only barely heard a gravelly voice growl in the middle of the clearing.
Suddenly everything stopped. His crying, his breathing, his heart--everything stopped to listen for that gravelly voice again. A vaguely familiar voice that Red thought he had encountered before, struggling through this area with his father.
He heard Devon yelp in pain. Red cringed at that, but knew that if he attempted to help, the computer would no longer help him. He barely heard Devon gurgle some words that were indecipherable at his range, and then the gravelly voice again. Yes, it was that same voice he heard--what were the words the computer used? That's right--two years ago.
Red managed to pull himself from the depths of sorrow to turn and peer over the rock behind him.
His eyes widened as he beheld a creature he had not seen since he last heard that voice. It was the same creature that his father fought to protect him from when they left home for a place his father called "Arris," in search of a new life after his wife--Red's mother--passed away. The same creature he fought when he told Red to run--he had a different name then, but was unable to remember--run far and fast and try to get to Arris Dome. It was then that his father tossed him his knife in a sheath attached to a belt, which Red still wore hidden beneath his shirt, the handle pointing down for easy access.
Red abruptly realized that he now gripped the handle tightly, and yanked it out of its sheath. A blinding rage filled him while he remembered the loss of his father, whose living person or decayed remains Red still searched for daily, despite the wishes of the computer. Red placed a hand atop the broken slab and pulled himself up from his crouched position. His fist clenched the knife in a death grip, and his arm quivered from the intense tightening of muscles. His shoulders heaved with every enraged breath as he glowered at the bulbous freak from behind lowered eyebrows.
Red screamed as he vaulted over the barricade from his hiding place, landing hard on his feet only to leap back up again, sprinting towards Devon and the huge mutant, brandishing the knife his father left him. In a flash of steel Red slashed at the tentacle holding Devon up, causing the creature to drop him and jump back in pain. Red turned, sliding to a halt on his feet and left hand, the right holding the dagger out behind him. Red snarled and bared his teeth at it.
"Where's Dad?" Red yelled at the wounded freak. It only caressed the bleeding gash with one tentacle while lashing out with another. "Where's Dad!" Red shouted louder, deflecting the tentacle with the flat of his knife.
Devon, still weak from being drained by the creature, began pulling himself towards his pack. Red moved between them, trying to shield Devon from being assaulted again. "Tell me," growled Red, "where's Dad!" No fire of recognition lit in the creature's eyes as it began circling Red.
"I don't know," the creature snarled back as it tried to staunch its wound with the tentacle that was doctoring it before. "I've eaten a few humans in my time," it spat derisively, "but I've never bothered getting to know them. Meals always taste better when you don't know them personally." Another tentacle shot out at Red, who ducked and gave his torso a quarter turn, bringing his knife up to intersect the path of the tentacle. Cold steel connected with warm flesh, and a spurt of green blood spattered on the right side of Red's face. The creature yelped and hopped back on reverse-articulated legs, using another tentacle to attend to the new wound. If something was not done soon, it would rapidly run out of tentacles... "Perhaps this 'Dad' of yours was one of the few that got away. Go find him, and leave me and my meal in peace."
Red repositioned himself to be the exact midpoint between the creature and Devon. "No. You won't eat him like Dad. Dad saved me; I'll save Devon. You go." Red then put the knife directly between himself and his foe, and added his left hand to steady his grip.
It hopped backward and its muscles rippled up and down its body, the closest thing to bristling that it could accomplish. "Wha-what?" The creature's eyes narrowed, the slits glaring at Red menacingly.
The creature huffed, then shifted its center of gravity back and down. It charged at Red headfirst, the chitinous, green headplate aimed directly at his chest. In the brief moment between the initial weight shifting and the creature's first step forward, Red slammed the knife back in its sheath beneath his shirt. Red then leapt into the air, barely evading its tackle by landing on its head with both feet and pushing off again, sending the creature sliding face first on the ground towards Devon. Red landed at the creature's feet, quickly pulled his knife from the sheath again and hopped back around. The creature lay sprawled on the ground within arm's reach of Devon. Devon curled up around his bundle, trying to inch away from the monster as it attempted to push itself up with a pair of green, bloodstained tentacles.
Red sidled next to the creature and kicked it, knocking it off balance and rolling it onto its back. He straddled the upper portion of the mutant's body, placing a knee on each of the outstretched tentacles. As the creature struggled to pull its two remaining undamaged tentacles from behind its back, Red inched his blade over its narrow neck. The two wounded tentacles flailed at him, causing even more pain to the mutant. Devon surged forward to stop Red as he plunged his knife deep into the creature's throat. Dark green blood gushed from the fatal wound, and it sputtered and spat out mouthfuls of vital fluids before its eyes glazed over, and Red pulled out his knife.
"R-red," Devon coughed, "you--that's twice now." Devon coughed again, weakened by the mutant's drain. "How about--" Devon covered his mouth with his fist as a bout of hacking coughs erupted from his throat. Red rushed over to help him, but Devon waved him off. "How about I save you next time, huh?" Devon managed to coax a weakened smile from his ashen face, but Red just looked concerned.
"You're hurt. We should get you to a fix thing," Red uttered worriedly, pulling Devon to his feet.
"No, I'll--" Devon was again interrupted by a series of coughs. "I'll be fine. I don't need to rest in an Enertron. I can--" Devon tried to stifle a cough, "make it to Trann just fine." He wanted to prove his point by taking a few steps southward, but stumbled and fell to his knees. "It's just a minor setback," he mumbled, "it's nothing. I can do this. We're--" A coughing fit made his head spin as he pushed himself back to his feet. "We're pretty close to the end, right? We should be out of here by today, right?"
Red shook his head, dismayed.
"What?" Devon rasped, losing his voice from the constant coughing. "You mean we're nowhere near the end?"
Red shook his head again, saying, "No, we're almost there. But I can't go with you. I have to stay and find Dad." A look in Red's eyes told Devon that there was something else, as well.
Devon was about to inquire as to why Red could not finish the journey with him when a voice buzzed at them from the direction they had come. "The child is correct. There will be no 'we,' human unit 'Devon.' Furthermore, your life shall be terminated, for allowing the child to put itself into a potentially life-threatening situation. The child shall return with me."
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