Adrift – Chapter 1

Part 1

The boredom of the night shift.

In a cold, starless night, where the silence’s so thick you could almost slice it, the sole source of entertainment in this out-of-town scrapyard was an old, refurbished Toshiba laptop that should have probably been scrapped and made into a toaster about decade ago.

“Godammit!´´

Those were the frustrated words of the sole living inhabitant of the junkyard at a time even rats and crows were asleep. His Windows XP’s Minesweeper had proven too mighty a foe to overcome, after perhaps one hour without a victory on Normal difficulty.

*Bzzt! Bzzt! Bzzt!*

The obnoxious buzz of a vibrating cellphone suddenly reminded him that he wasn’t the last living man on earth. The irritation-rousing word ”BOSS” displayed on black letters over its shiny green screen; it was so old it made the old Toshiba laptop look like a Macbook Pro.

“What?´´

Tiredness and irritation permeated his words as he picked up the phone.

“Wazzap boyo! Enjoying the graveyard shift? Watch out for zombie minivans out there.´´

A raspy voice with fake Aussie accent emerged from the phone’s noisy speaker in a manner filled with mockery and mayhap a bit of sadistic amusement.

“…….´´ – He didn’t feel like replying the comment.

Even if his boss was a rather nice and easygoing fellow, the words he wanted to say to him would most certainly warrant a boot up his ass with the words ”You”re fired!!” on it.

“Oi oi, don’t take it that badly, Cole. Y’know how this shit is now and then.´´

Dropping the sadism and mockery, the voice on the phone took a more sympathetic tone.

“Yeah, but this now and then has been going on for two weeks now. I dearly love my bed, boss, and I don’t want her to think I am cheating on her.´´ – Retorted Cole sarcastically.

The phone went silent for a moment, the boss on the other side letting out a big sigh.

“Haah, I’m sorry lad, but we’ve had about three robberies just this week, and you know Conrad wouldn’t stay up at night even if I hired the best hooker in the world for him. You’re the only one I can trust on this.´´ – His tone was serious, but also caring.

Yet, it wasn’t enough to subdue’s Cole irritation.

“I still don’t get who the heck would stay up to the 3AM to steal old cars from a junkyard; I mean, who would pay for those rusty yank tanks?´´ – Cole’s irritation kept mounting up.

“Plenty o’people actually. You’d be surprised how much money you can make out from something as simple as the hood figurine of a 50s Bel Air.´´ – Now his tone had a strange manner of pride.

“Anyway, if nothing happens here in the next ten minutes, I am blowing this joint; I don’t care if they steal the engine block of a vintage Rolls Royce, I’m going home.´´

“You can deduct whatever gets taken from my paycheck. I’d rather lose money than get more minutes of my live wasting away in this dump.´´

He had done a rather big effort to hold his rage on these words.

“Fair enough lad, but keep in mind that engine block would be worth more than what you earn in a year. Just sayin’. Have a good night.´´

With those words, the line became silent, and Cole let out a long, tired sigh as he slumped on his chair; the myriad of tools in his belt making a clicking sound as they scrapped against the table.

He looked at his wristwatch and kept staring at it.

Second after second passed, which soon became minutes and these minutes counted to ten; that was just six hundred seconds, but they felt like a year. Perhaps this sudden slowdown in time had been his last ticket to escape, and he would later come to regret not having said five or three instead of ten.

The laptop’s shutdown was slow; WinXP had never been too fast, specially in such old rig. Once the coolers became silent, he stashed it inside his bag, and made sure he had all his tools on his belt and pockets; it would be a long walk to the bus stop, and he didn’t want to have to come back because he forgot his favorite wrench or something.

*Thlunk, Tink-Tink, Tap*

A noise like that of toppling down a castle of beer cans became audible from outside the half-opened window.

“Aw man, what now?´´ – Thought Cole as he got up from his seat.

He has been sitting there for so long his overall had encrusted itself to his buttocks.

Peering outside the window, the skyscrapers of car husks surrounded by shorter, haphazard piles of old CRT monitors and discarded keyboards made it look like he was in the center of a hilly valley.

“Haaah… If the thieves show up now and something gets stolen, that’ll mean no new laptop for maybe a year or two.´´ – Said Cole in a tone akin to a man who’s about to take that choice that’ll save his future but ruin his present.

···

Making his way through the endless darkness, he found himself at the only place in the junkyard that held something more or less valuable; the Relic Repository, as his boss called it.

Unlike the piles and towers around him, this place was all neatly arranged like an actual parking lot; big, rounded 50s yank tanks stood along with the kind of late 60s muscle cars that action movie protagonists drove and crashed with style. As rusty and broken as most were, they could still fetch a fortune in the right places, and in the last months, many of them had ”magickally” disappeared from their lots, to much of the boss’s despair.

“Hellooooooo! Any thieves out there? Come out so I can fix you good.´´

Called out Cole to the emptiness of night as he brandished his beloved 18” monkey wrench; given all the trouble these thieves had caused him, he was seriously feeling like beating one to death, just to vent out his frustration.

*Tlink, Tin, Klink.*

A big black rat came out from the broken left headlight of a badass Dodge Charger which would had looked quite cool if it didn’t have more bullet holes than Bonnie & Clyde’s Death Car. It was the cops who brought that car to the deposit a couple of years ago, they said it had been part of a grisly murder case involving a child killer and his cannibalistic wife, whom the cops had shot to death as they tried to flee in this wonderful piece of american muscle.

Conrad, Cole’s co-worker, didn’t dare come near it, let alone at night, as he claimed the ghost of its late passengers had tried to strangle him with the driver’s seat belt. He probably had tried to take the car for a joy ride and got stuck inside it, as Cole couldn’t imagine how Conrad’s taco-stuffed belly could fit inside the driver seat.

“Heh, lazy fat bastard.´´

*Tlank!*

Cole kicked out an empty oil can, which hit the hood of the ”haunted” car, which bounced off it.

“It’s his fault I’m stuck with this shift; damn coward. As if anything scary could really happen in this dump.´´ – Shouted Cole defiantly to the car as if blaming it, too.

Nothing but silence could be heard at the moment.

“Tsk, better head home before I lose my chance to sleep.´´ – Said Cole as he turned around and began to make his way back.

*Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm*

But a strange humming sound called out his attention, and made all the hairs in his neck stand.

It sounded like a really big computer cooler or one of those remote-controlled drones.`

“Oi, t-this shit isn’t funny.´´ – Said Cole shaking as he turned around and faced the haunted car. The humming was getting stronger and he couldn’t quite tell from where it came.

*HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM*

Fear was starting to overtake him as the humming became almost deafening.

*Brum, Trtrtrt*

*Fhsssh*

*Honk! Honk!*

As if out of an old horror movie, an old blender he had just stepped on started spinning, along with a broken TV not far from him and the horns of some of the cars.

“This shit isn’t funny!´´ – Cried out Cole as he smashed the TV’s screen, but every electronic device around him was coming to life.

The lights and horns of the cars, TVs and displays sprawled around, old radios and recorders, industrial machines and fans, and even some really creepy thing that looked like a scrapped animatronic with the ripped face of a smiling woman who was twitching out of a junk pile next to him.

The cacophony of all this noise would’ve made a passerby believe there was a rock concert here.

“What the fuck is going on!?´´ – Shouted Cole as he tried to run away in a state of absolute terror.

*Fwap!*

Suddenly, it was all white, like one of those police choppers was lighting him up with a floodlight. Cole’s feet could no longer feel the floor, he was floating, along with many of the ”living trash” around him, it was all floating up.

“What the fuuuuu-´´

It all vanished into white; he couldn’t hear or see anything, he could only feel the lack of gravity and his own, overwhelming terror.
————————————————————————————-

Part 2

“Ughaa…´´

Cole’s senses began to return to him, or at least, his sense of gravity did; he could feel his body on the ground again, and there was something rather heavy on top of him.

“What the hell, I feel like I’m sleeping under a trashcan.´´ – Those were Cole’s thoughts as he opened his eyes, only to find the dirty, ripped face of the animatronic upon him; staring at him with its last remaining eye and its extra-creepy Barbie smile.

“Gya! Fuck! Get down! Down!´´ – In a stroke of panic, he kicked the broken animatronic away and began to pummel it with his wrench, which he was still holding onto.

*Pham, pham, pham.*

He beat on its face till it was nothing mashed cables and plastic.

“Shit… I seriously gotta lay down those jumpscare games. They’re messing up with my mi-´´ – Cole’s words stuck on his throat as he realized he wasn’t in the junkyard, or any other familiar place anymore.

“…´´

Only silence emerged from his lips as he gazed onto the unfamiliar place.

A corridor of rusted black metal walls, trash-littered floor and light fixtures either smashed or blinking in an unsettlingly creepy way.

“Okay… is this a bad dream?´´ – Said Cole as he checked his own body.

He still had all his stuff with him; his tool-studded belt, his overly heavy laptop bag, his sweaty overalls and his beloved 18” wrench.

“Sheesh, this shit feels really… real.´´

Finding nothing wrong with himself, Cole decided to put his hand on one of the rusty black metal walls. It was cold to the touch and rugged. It was real, but his mind hadn’t yet connected all the dots.

“This just can’t be; this feels real wrong….. REAL wrong…. real….´´ –

He turned his face towards the corridor as he spoke.

“…. Like I just dived into a level of Half-Life…. or Doom….´´

His attention suddenly shifted to a set of deep scratches into the metal; like some big clawed thing had shaved three perfectly perpendicular lines of the metal. He could feel his neck hairs standing again.

*Grrroooorgh*

A low, angry growl suddenly broke the silence of the corridor.

“…. Hopefully not a level of Prey…..´´

Following these words, a hideous creature stumbled around the end of the corridor; rubbing its fleshy head against the walls.

“… Or worse, Deadspace…´´ – Cole swallowed as he saw it.

The creature was roughly the size of a big Doberman, with a hideous reddish-pink color and a texture akin to that of a chewed bubblegum stuck under a school desk. Its four legs ended in ugly black stumps and its head was long and smooth like a racing car. Two crab-like eyes emerged from its back, and one of them looked as if it had trouble focusing.

The beast continued to emit a slow, growling sound as it rubbed its smooth head against the walls of the corridor again and again, like a cat marking its turf.

“Okay… time for my strategic retreat.´´ – Thought Cole as he took a couple of steps back.

“Gotta keep quiet… gotta keep-´´

*Shraash… Dunk!*

As he tried to walk back, he accidentally kicked the remains of the animatronic, which fell through a hole in the floor, striking something at the bottom which made an echo like a gong.

“Fuck.´´ – That was all he managed to mutter before the beast’s crab-like eyes focused on him.

“Iiiaaaagh!!´´

Letting out crazed screech, the beast charged toward Cole like an enraged bloodhound.

“Shit, fuck, fucking shit!´´ – Swore Cole as he ran as fast as his legs could.

The corridor in front of him winded from left to right and right to left constantly, but he was too panicked to worry about which path he took.

“Uagh!´´

But, upon taking one last left, he found himself crashing full-face into a wall; it was a dead-end.

*Grrroooorgh*

The beast growled at him as it saw him cornered.

“I dunno what the fuck’s going on here, but it seems it’s Game Over…. shit.´´ – Said Cole as he desperately groped the wall; hoping for it to open or move or something.

The beast approached him slowly, and measuring every step.

“I… I don’t know what kind of fuck you are, but you bet your alien brain that I’m gonna make it into mush if you come closer. – Bluffed Cole as he brandished his wrench; he was scared out of his wits.

Suddenly, the beast stepped back and became quiet. For a moment, Cole thought it was backing up; he was wrong.

*Rrrawwrrh!*

Taking impulse with its hind legs, the beast leaped at him like a wolverine; a grotesque maw of uneven fangs bared at him.

“SHIT!´´ – He cried as he put his wrench in front of his face as a futile defense attempt.

*T’woosh!*

However, as the beast leaped, a thick, cobalt-colored beam hit it, bathing it in heat and light.

*Ka-Thump*

The beast, now well-roasted, slammed against the wall to the right, leaving a trail of malodorous blood as it slid down to the floor.

“UhAm shO Tuh’ta.´´

Another weird sound came from the left.

“W-What the…´´

With his heart beating so loud it almost echoed in the corridor, Cole tried to recover from his near-death experience as he saw the creature that now emerged in front of him.

“TaH-kO tuTu’Hm?´´

Although the corridor was pretty dim, Cole could make out a vaguely humanoid shape in front of him. It was two heads taller than him, with a wine-red skin and apparently four human-ish arms, one of them carrying some sort of cannon, which let out a soft smoke.

“TaH-kO tuTu’Hm?´´ – Again it repeated those intelligible words.

“W-What’s going on?´´ – Inquired Cole as he held his wrench in front of him as if it were a sword; the hands holding it shaking like jelly.

*Beep!*

The tall figure seemed to manipulate something around its neck, which made a sound akin to that of old cellphones’ keys.

“ArE yOu hUrt?´´

Its words came out unevenly pronounced and with the wrong emphasis; like a native Spanish speaker trying to read English. However, that was more than enough for Cole to understand.

“N-No, I… I am fine.´´ – Replied Cole without stopping his trembling.

“THen coME. FolLOW.´´

With those words, the figure stepped out of the darkness of the corridor and into one of the blinking but still functional lights.
It, or more precisely, she became fully visible to Cole for the very first time.

Two smooth black eyes, like polished onyx, adorned a face devoid of a nose or eyebrows, and rather thin lips that wore a serious expression. She was clearly not human, but that did not meant she wasn’t cute to look at.

Save for her four arms and her feet which looked like some sort of two-fingered claws with a back griper, her body was more or less human, specially the big breasts that protruded from under the somewhat tattered outfit she wore, which looked like some sort of re-purposed military uniform. Her hair was as red as her skin, and it flowed down gently.

Still, despite being faced by a real sexy alien girl, something he had always fantasized about, Cole couldn’t shake off his inherent fear of the unknown.

“Follow? Where are you taking me to?´´ – Inquired Cole distrustfully without moving his wrench away from his battle-ready position.

The four armed woman remained silent for a moment.

“WaNt tO liVE?´´ – She replied in the same uneven tone. Yet her words didn’t sound as menacing as they sounded annoyed.

“O-Of course. I don’t wanna die here.´´ – Cole put his wrench back into his belt as he said this. Whatever or whomever this woman was, she didn’t want him dead, at least not yet apparently.

“THen coME. FolLOW. AnD staY cloSE iF waNt tO liVE.´´ – Her words couldn’t be clearer, in meaning at least.

···

Following her quiet guidance, Cole and the four-armed woman went through the darkened corridors.

Whatever that place was, it wasn’t faring well; broken lights, smashed doors and shattered panels dotted the corridors everywhere, along with many signs of battle, struggle and dark brown stains that could easily be dried blood. Whatever had happened here, it hadn’t been by any measure nice, and Cole felt deep in his gut that he didn’t want to find out what had clawed out the solid metal walls like that.

“What the hell am I doing? I’m following a red-skinned space babe as she takes me deeper and deeper into what could easily be the USG Nishimura… and I left my Plasma Cutter at home, haha…´´ – Mused Cole sarcastically as he held onto his trusty wrench with one hand and the shoulder strap of his laptop bag with the other; never staying as much three steps behind his unusual companion.

The winding dark corridors went on for what seemed to be long hours. Sadly, whatever electric field had brought all the junk to life back at the scrapyard has also apparently fried Cole’s wristwatch. He prayed for his laptop to not have suffered the same fate.

Finally, after much wandering, they came upon what seemed to be a gigantic hangar door; maybe big enough to fit a whole Airbus through.

*Tang, Tang, Tlink, Tlink, Tang*

While Cole was wondering what could had such a door been built to fit, the four armed woman made a rhythmic knock on the door.

“Ik ben aht.´´ – A voice from the other side muttered those unintelligible words.

“EnT bA SuN.´´ – And she replied with yet another phrase beyond Cole’s understanding.

With these ”magickal words”, a tiny shutter on one of the sides of the gate opened, flooding the corridor with light.

“Cha Zalura, ue ente. Iet teki… ta?´´

As Cole’s eyes adapted to the sudden flood of light, he finally saw the one who had been speaking to his companion.

A dog, or least, someone who looked like a greyish-white Alaskan Malamute wearing a ragged green shirt, standing on its hind legs, and looking at Cole with an expression of absolute surprise.

“Zalura, dan tatara? Ue hyomayen iet teki ta?´´

The dog’s surprised face changed into an annoyed frown as he turned his attention to the four armed woman and began to talk to her while contemptuously pointing at Cole.

“UlLe kOrum hiSA, DEsri. HyoMAyen teKI shO Tuh’ta.´´ – She replied in a rather calm fashion.

The dog let out a sigh and manipulated some sort of neck device he was wearing.

*Beep!*

Just like when the four armed woman had done it, there was a small electronic beep.

“Awright listen, ya water monkey.´´ – The dog suddenly spoke in a very peeved voice and a heavy accent.

“I’m only lettin’ ya in ‘cuz Zalura asked me nic’ly. My name is Desri, and if you ever try to pet me, or dare gimme a stupid name like ”Scooby” or ”Fluffy”, I’ll sic ya up so badly no bone of yours will be left whole. Undahstood?´´ – Growled the dog at Cole with an expression most unfriendly.

“DEsri, doN’T bE a jeRK.´´ – Replied the four armed woman, whose name was apparently Zalura, as she folded her four arms in a bit of annoyance.

“Don’t worry, I’m more of a cat person; I wouldn’t have pet you even if you were okay with it.´´ – Cole replied in a tone of non-commitance.

After letting out one last grunt of annoyance, the dog, or Desri as he called himself, moved away from the shutter, letting Cole inside and shutting it afterwards.

“WelcOME tO ThE noN-VOlatile salVAge COllectOr niNE.´´ – Said Zalura to Cole in a friendly tone.

He still had a bit of a hard time figuring her emotions.

“Oh, and above ‘dat, welcome to the Phylactery. Hope ya like it here as we’ll never be leaving this accursed hunk o’rust.´´ – Added Desri in a tone not so enthusiastic .
————————————————————————————-

Part 3

What Cole was feeling was a strangely mixed sensation.
The ”Non-Volatile Salvage Collector 9”, or NVSC9 as Desri called it, was quintessentially a space junkyard.

Piles upon piles of unusual junk filled a place roughly the size of a soccer field, and amidst its piles there was from rusty metal plates and pipes, to what seemed to be broken fighter jets and even a couple of cars from Earth.

On one hand, he was in a place filled with all kinds of exotic junk, which the mere thought of it made his hands reach for his tools; led by the raw curiosity that compelled him to take them apart to figure how they were made.

But on the other hand, if what ”Angry Dog” Desri had told him was true; that they were all trapped in this giant space derelict known simply as the Phylactery, the prospect of never returning home certainly instilled quite a bit of panic in him. But the panic was soon replaced by depression, which in time he ignored simply by thinking of something else.

“So, you say this place is essentially a big mousetrap?´´ – Asked Cole as he sat over what looked like a broken wing of sorts.

“Ya could put it like ‘dat, yeah. None of us came ‘ere on our own volition.´´ – Replied Desri in a rather sympathetic tone.

Zalura was feeling tired, so she had asked him to show Cole around the NVSC9. He was really weak to Zalura’s requests.

“But… why? Why is the crew of this ship abducting us all?´´ – Powerlessness and desperation permeated Cole’s words.

“Crew? Hah! Never even SEEN one of ’em ‘ere. We’ve only seen their bones ‘ere ‘n ‘dere, and they weren’t tasty at all.´´ – It wasn’t too clear if that last part had been a joke.

“They could all be dead fer as much as we knew. Tetlekar can prob’bly tell ya all this better than I; he’s been ‘ere for almost a century now, y’know.´´ – Added Desri as he scratched his neck with one of his hind paws.

“Huh? There’s more people here than you and Zalura?´´ – Asked Cole as lifted an eyebrow.

“Yup! With ya, we’re six, water monkey. They’re out scavengin’ right now.´´

“Also, try to get well along with ev’rybody, else bad things might happen. If ya think I ‘ave a bad mood, wait till ya meet Haudrica. I simply can’t stand that chitinous bitch; if she weren’t so skilled in healing I would’ve poisoned her food long ago. ´´ – Growled Desri as he lifted his cheeks, showing a wide array of dog teeth.

“Anyhow, this clearin’ ‘ere is where we live. So don’t go touchin’ other people’s stuff.´´ – Said Desri as he motioned to the trash-free area they all were at the moment.

What seemed to be a sort of repurposed cargo bay was the place Desri called home, and Zalura laid currently asleep inside the cockpit of a crashed fighter. There were also a couple of other similar places on the edges of the clearing, which Cole assumed they belonged to the other absent inhabitants.

Aside from that, there were a series of workbenches, tools, hotplates, crates and other similar appliances laid scattered around the clearing. It all looked like a Post-Apocaliptic settlement straight out of a Fallout game, but in space.

“Ev’rywhere else is fair game, so feel free to do whatever ya want with ‘hat scrap. For now, try to find y’self a place to call home out there. Once the others are back, ya can ask Mizelle to bring it ‘ere for ya.´´ – Explained Desri as he got up from the crate he has been sitting on.

He walked away without even saying as much as ”C’ya later”, leaving Cole to his own devices.

···

This NVSC9 was a treasure trove for junkers and scavengers. Not only there were all manner of broken spacecrafts, strange machines and complex devices whose sole appearance puzzled Cole; there were a fair number of ”Earthling” artifacts too. There were cars both modern and classic, small planes and bits of larger ones, as well as a decent number of computers, TVs, unrecognizable industrial machinery, freezers and many other more familiar domestic appliances, although some of them looked like they hailed from the WW2-era such as vacuum tube radios and retro-styled kitchen stoves.

It all made Cole wonder for how long had the Phylactery been spiriting away people from Earth, yet it also made him wonder if he would find the USS Cyclops or the Avengers from the Lost Flight 19 buried under this trash, and that made his inner history nerd giggle.

After a couple of hours of wandering, digging around the trash and resisting the temptation of trying to disassemble something, Cole found just what he had been looking for.

“This will do. Just hope there aren’t skeletons in the beds.´´ – Thought Cole as he laid eyes upon what could be his new home.

Laying atop half a dozen of smashed cars stood a battered but not smashed recreational vehicle.

For the style alone, it was probably from around the 90s, but Cole had always wanted to have one of these, so having found one here made him quite happy.

The truck part in front was totalled, but the rest of it looked in pretty good condition. Its windows were gone, yes, but it wasn’t like he had any rain to worry about now.

“Now comes the hard part; getting into it.´´ – Muttered Cole as he began to climb the pile of smashed cars, trying to grab hold of the door’s handle.

“Ugh, dammit.´´ – Sadly, said door was still locked.

Pulling out a screwdriver from his belt, he tried to force the lock or pry the door open. However, all that pulling and yanking caused the RV to lose its delicate balance upon the pile.

*Creeeeak*

Groaned the metal as it moved around precariously.

“Oh damn, not now…´´ – This wasn’t the first time Cole had fallen from a pile of scrap, but they had never been pleasant experiences.

*Grooak!*

With that last creak, the RV plummeted down, along with Cole.

“Whoa!! Uh…?´´ – Cried out Cole as he fell, still hanging from the door’s handle.

But, his fall was suddenly stopped mid-air and now both he and the RV floated a few inches from the ground.

“That was a close call. Good thing Desri told me that there was a new resident that needed a bit of help.´´ – Commented a soft yet relieved voice as the RV made a soft landing.

“W-Who?´´ – With his feet finally in the ground, Cole called out to whomever was on the other side of the RV.

Standing there with a bright smile on her face, a girl of a rather short stature and bright orange hair looked at Cole with a friendly gesture.

Her clothes were a bit patched up, like those of everybody else but still looked cute on her.

However, he was way to focused on the feature that set her apart from a human.

On the sides of her head, a pair long, pointy and fur covered ears, almost as long as a hand protruded out. Their fur was the same color of her hair and the way she had just wriggled triggered many excited responses in Cole; he couldn’t stop but gawk at them with unbridled fascination and a decent rate of lust.

“Uhm, sorry, did my ears scare you?´´ – The girl covered her long, fluffy ears with her hands embarrassingly, and this made Cole realize what he had been doing.

“Oh, no no no. They’re quite cute. They just surprised me, that’s all.´´ – Replied Cole as he tried to hold his excitement back.

“You’re… Mizelle, right? Desri said I’d need your help.´´ – Added Cole in a much more self-restrained tone.

She gave out a nod of agreement before speaking.

“Yes. Do you wish to move this to the clearing?´´ – Asked Mizelle as she looked at the RV.

“Nah, not yet. I first need a way to get past this lock.´´ – Said Cole as he pointed to the door.

“Oh, I can do that for you.´´ – With these words, she closed her eyes and extended her hand towards the lock, which made a clicking sound as it opened.

“Whoa! That’s some seriously cool stuff.´´ – Cole gave her a thumbs up as he spoke. Mizelle blushed a bit.

The inside of the RV wasn’t as bad as Cole had initially thought. Sure, the freezer was filled with indescribable spoilage horrors and the TV had been smashed, but he could clean that up, and it wasn’t like there was anything to watch on TV either.

So, after a quick clean up and a short journey Mizelle was landing the RV on the clearing. However, as Cole stepped out of it, he realized that there was an argument going on between Desri and a slender, emerald-haired woman he hadn’t seen before.

“Did you forgot what happened the last time we let one of those water monkeys here, Desri? How many times someone has to get hurt till you understand those savages cannot be trusted!´´ – Lashed out the slender woman in a highly exasperated tone.

“He SeEms gooD. DiD nOT ATtack ZALura or DEsri.´´ – Said Zalura in her usual uneven tone.

“And? You said the same about the last bastard, and look at what he did to Mizelle! Just because they’re capable of speech doesn’t mean they are not animals!´´ – Countered the slender woman in an even more spite-laden exasperated tone. The situation looked rather sensible.

“H-Haudrica, please don’t fight?´´ – Asked Mizelle in a meek, concerned manner.

“Ah, Mizelle, where had you been? These idiots just brought in another sava-´´ – While her words had initially sounded more friendly than those she lashed at Desri and Zalura, the moment she saw Cole, she vanished like the wind, only to suddenly reappear in front of Cole, pinning him to the side of the RV with a blade that emerged from her arm.

From the distance, she had looked rather human-esque, but close by, it was clear such conception was not fully accurate.

While her face looked mostly human, her red, composite eyes and her ear-to-ear mouth conjured many an image of fear in Cole. Her short green hair covered the sides of her face, and a sort of chitinous plating covered her neck and the visible part of her hands. The blade she held at Cole’s neck looked to be made of the same material. She wore a red and emerald-green uniform that would’ve looked quite fancy if it wasn’t for all the stitches it had.

“What did you do to her you savage!?´´ – Roared Haudrica at Cole as she held her blade at his neck; blood-lust clearly visible in her expression.

“Haudrica, stop! He didn’t hurt me or anything!´´ – Cried out Mizelle, almost breaking into tears.

“Lies! I’m sure he forced you to say that! What did you do to her you bastard.´´ – She wasn’t listening to reason; she was completely berserk.

“S-Stop! Please don’t kill me!´´ – Cole was perhaps more scared than he had ever been in his life.

“Stop!? Why the fuck you think you can order me to stop, you water bag! Tell me what did you do to Mizelle or I’m ripping that lying throat of yours open!!´´ – She slowly pushed her blade into Cole’s neck, close enough to draw blood.

“Haudrica, put him down.´´ – A harsh male voice echoed from behind her, but Cole was too terrified to bother in looking.

“He says he hasn’t done anything, and so says Mizelle. I see no reason to doubt him.´´´- Continued the male voice in the same harsh manner.

“No reason? That’s because you don’t know these monsters! Everything they say is a lie!`´ – Screamed Haudrica amidst her madness.

“… Haudrica, I am going to count up to three, if you haven’t let him go by then, you’ll have a lot to regrow.´´

Finally, Cole was able to focus his eyes away from Haudrica and into the man behind her who was trying to stop her. He looked vaguely human and wore a rather out-of-place formal suit, but yet, there was something that didn’t look quite right with his face, but Cole couldn’t muster enough willpower to focus on it.

“One.´´ – The man began counting in a cold tone.

“Y-You can’t be serious!´´ – Haudrica looked considerably afraid.

“Two.´´ – His voice grew even more severe.

“Graagh! Die!´´ Cried Haudrica as she moved her blade back and was about to strike Cole’s neck.

“Three.´´

*Bwam*

Cole felt something wet sprinkle his face as he fell to his knees.

“Gyaaaagh!´´ – Wailed Haudrica as she held onto her now-missing left shoulder. Her left arm now laid in the floor next to Cole.

*Bleagh*

That was too much for him; Cole vomited.

“Why? Why did you do this, Tetlekar!? You too saw the atrocities of that monster.´´ – Cried out Haudrica in desperation; tears pouring from her eyes.

“Because you are trying to kill a complete stranger just because he’s the same race as your aggressor. By allowing yourself to be led by impulse like that, you current actions make you lower than a beast.´´ – Stated the one called Tetlekar as he stood in front of her.

“Oi, ya alright, lad?´´ – Running on his fours like an actual dog, Desri ran towards Cole, whom was still vomiting.

He didn’t reply, he just panted and sweated.

“… Say, I didn’t catch your name before. What did you say you were called?´´ – Asked Desri as he tried to change the mood.

It seemed as if he did had a nicer side after all.

“… Cole….. Cole Dedrick….´´ – Said Cole as he continued panting.
He still had no idea of what had happened just now.

···

Once the situation had calmed, Mizelle carried Haudrica away to her room. According to Desri, her arm would had grown back again in a couple of days, so there was nothing to worry. Still, this whole event had left Cole rather shaken, as the scarce composure he had managed to gather in order to not lose his calm to this whole situation had now vanished.

He just sat in the edge of his new bed, which still didn’t feel like his own at all; he had lost all he had in his life and had been cast into a place from where he could never escape.

“Are you awake,  Dedrick?´´ – Speaking in a calm, soothing tone, Tetlekar entered the RV and sat in the vacant bed in front of Cole.

He previously had a moment to take a good look at him. Although he looked almost completely human on the outside, Tetlekar was actually an android. Yet the only ways to tell that apart was because of the scar on his left cheek, which had the dull, silvery color of solder, and that his hands were like highly polished aluminium gauntlets.

“Just call me Cole, please. And I’m sorry I caused that trouble.´´ – Said Cole, still with a downcast stare.

“It’s alright, do not feel guilty; this is not your fault. Those two girls had a terrible experience before. I don’t know the details but they haven’t fully healed their wounds. Specially Haudrica, whom still very sensible about it.´´ – Explained Tetlekar in a soft, soothing tone.

“Thanks you, but still, I can’t yet get over all of this. Why are we all trapped in this cage of rust?´´ – Asked Cole as his worries resurfaced.

“I understand your feelings; it has been a very long time for me and there are times I still wonder what has become of the world outside.´´

“Still, while we remain in here, the only thing we can do is survive; survive and keep exploring the Phylactery, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll one day find an answer to that question, and way to get back to our worlds.´´

The way in which Tetlekar was speaking evoked the feelings of someone whom once was just as scared as Cole about this whole place, but that, with time, has learned to accept said reality.

“…What can I do to help?´´ – A glint of hope could be felt in Cole’s words.

“That’s something only you can answer, as only you know your own capabilities.´´ – Replied Tetlekar as he got up from his seat and headed for the door.

Cole was left alone to his own thoughts yet again.

“…What can I do to help?´´ – He repeated his own question as he looked around his new home, and said place still needed a lot work to provide a comfortable living.

Getting up from his bed, Cole put on his tool belt, and looked at all the hanging wires and loose cupboards of the RV.

“Then, I’ll start by making this place feel like home.´´ – Monologued Cole as he cracked his knuckles.

For all of his life, he had dreamed of an adventure like this, but now that he had it, he felt nervous and insecure about it. It was time to change that. With his own hands.

<End of Chapter 1>

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