Adrift – Chapter 2


Part 1

“Whew, this will be enough.” Setting down a small crate full of recovered screws, Cole looked upon the task he had set upon himself, and all he had gathered to fulfill it.

Neatly arranged upon a makeshift table made of some crates and a large sheet of metal, laid a wide selection of wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, drill bits, hacksaws, bolt cutters and a couple of soldering irons. There was also an old drill and a rather rusty crowbar, along with a battered but still functional multimeter by the floor.

Next to it, there were crates filled with screws, circuit boards, metal pipes, switches, electrical motors, car batteries, light bulbs and a wide array of platings, wires, bits of metal and gears.

All this well-sorted salvage brought a smile to Cole’s lips.

“Oi oi, thought ya wanted to patch up yer place, not build a Class Five Capital Dreadnought; do ya really need all dat stuff?” Inquired Desri amusedly as he sat on the roof of the RV.

He had been sitting there for a while now; seemed rather entertained of watching Cole drive through the trash to gather all that salvage.

“Maybe not now, but maybe I’ll need it later. You never know what you’ll need when fixing such a big place. Still, I wish I had a vise and a table saw, but maybe I can make myself one of those later.” Said Cole as he picked up one of the hacksaws. It’s edge was well-used, but still good.

“But enough chit-chat, it’s wrench time!” With these daring words, Cole headed towards what remained of the RV’s truck front. His first task was removing that twisted hunk of metal from there as it made the whole RV pitch to the right.

After half an hour of struggle against the rusted bolts and a bit of help from Zalura, the RV was sliding out of the truck’s chassis with a loud screech.

“YOu STIll neED thiS PaRt?” Asked Zalura as she held the truck’s chassis in the air as if it weighted nothing. Those toned arms of hers weren’t for show.

“Nah, I already stripped it of anything useful, which wasn’t much. Hope whomever was driving this survived.” Replied Cole dismissively as he began to measure the space between the upper part of the cabin, which used to rest over the truck, and the floor with a measuring tape.

“OkAY.”

*Swash, bwawlam!*

Without even a second thought, Zalura threw the wreckage away as if it were a ball of paper. The clangor echoed all over the place.

“Hey! Don’t do that! You could’ve broken something.” Visibly spooked by the clangor, Cole turned over to Zalura and scolded her while raising an index finger in a no-no fashion.

“BuT ColE SAid yOu doN’T neEDeD iT.” Replied Zalura as she leaned her head in confusion.

“Yes, but by throwing it out like that it could had broken many good and still-useful junk when it crashed. You have to be careful.” Cole’s scolding was rather harsh, but as soon as Zalura gave out an ”OkAY” nod, he just turned around and resumed his measuring.

“… Dude b’comes a compl’tely dif’rent fella when workin’… Like he’s posses’d by somethin’.” Commented Desri as he scratched his right ear with his forepaw.

Cole was like a whirlwind; with the measures from the upper cabin and some of the pipes and plates, he built a small but simple support for the cabin. Then he moved to the inside of the RV, where he continued to work on all the inner details, such as the furniture, the lighting, the beds and the disgusting-beyond-words toilet.

As what would had been the afternoon (if they had any sun to notice it) fell, Cole sat on the doorstep of the RV, panting like a tired courier and drinking the last water of a bottle he always had with him.

“Whew, that was some workout.” He wiped his mouth with his sleeve as he spoke.

“You have finished with your current task, it seems.” In a soft, polite tone, Tetlekar made his presence known. He walked towards Cole at slow, leisurely speed.

“I merely wanted to inform you that I have prepared dinner for everyone. Wondered if you would like to eat.” His attitude was strangely servile, which belied his previous demonstration of badassitude.

“S-Sure thing.” Replied Cole nonchalantly.

~~~

Cole had been so concentrated on his repairs that he had failed to feel the unusual smell that emanated from the center of the clearing.

Hanging on a pipe between two repurposed crates and heated by what seemed to be an amalgam of hot plates, a battered metal pot bubbled with a hay-colored liquid that exuded an unfamiliar smell.

As he arrived, Mizelle was pouring some of it into a square open can she was using as bowl. Desri and Zalura waiting in line behind her.

Upon seeing Cole, she merely gave out a short smile before heading away with her plate. Her destination being an empty seat besides Haudrica, whom was eating her stew with haste a few steps away from everyone else. A light green, almost white fleshy formation was emerging from her formerly empty left shoulder. Still, with just one hand, she was having a bit of a hard time eating.

She reacted to Mizelle’s arrival by just stopping eating for a moment and exchanging some unheard words with her while smirking. Or maybe she was smiling? Cole found it hard to tell both apart due to the shape of her mouth.

The moment she noticed Cole looking her way, she countered by throwing a hate-filled glare towards him before turning her attention back to her food.

“Will she be okay?” Guilt permeated Cole’s question as he looked at Mizelle and Haudrica.

“Don’t cha worry, her arm’ll ‘ave grown back in a few days. This ain’t the first time som’one has to shoot off one o’ her limbs. Now ya see why I said couldn’t stand her attitude.” Growled Desri as he filled his plate. He had said that loud enough for Haudrica to hear him, but she didn’t show any reaction.

“That’s not what I meant…” Thought Cole as he looked at Haudrica sympathetically. Desri’s words had failed to ease his guilt, but he felt it wouldn’t be a good idea to press the issue.

After Zalura had served herself a rather big portion of the stew, Cole served himself a moderate portion in a bowl he had found on the RV, although there was still some left in the pot.

“CaN I haVE tHe reSt?´´ – Asked Zalura to Tetlekar. Her black eyes gleamed with barely restrained hunger.

Tetlekar just gave a short nod and she happily returned to the stew pot and emptied it. Cole couldn’t help but guess that it took a lot of food to keep that big body moving and that an android like Tetlekar would had no need for food.

“…” Sitting down along with Desri and Zalura, Cole reached for his first spoonful of the stew. Although it didn’t smell bad and had a rather nice color, Cole couldn’t help but wonder about what manner of ingredients would be possible to procure inside of this place, so he found himself staring intently and silently at his filled spoon.

“Don’t cha worry, doesn’t taste dat bad.” Desri probably meant this words as encouragement, but they had the opposite effect.

After a couple of minutes of spoon staring, Cole breathed deep and brought it to his mouth.

“…. It’s not that bad….” He echoed in surprise.

Tetlekar’s stew had the taste of a cheap broth flavored with soup cubes instead of actual ingredients, but he had tasted many far worse dishes on roadside dinners or the cafeteria of his highschool.

With that first spoonful in, the other came rather easily; after all, he hadn’t eaten anything in almost a day now, and had worked a good sweat repairing the RV.

“Ya…. still seem rather unfaz’d with this whole situation, dude. Thought ya’d be bit more… shaken by all this stuff.” After licking away a good deal of his stew in a very dog-esque fashion, Desri seemed to have gotten fed up with the sudden silence.

“Aside from the whole abductions stuff, being the first human who meets sentient alien races, the trapped here part, and the fact I’m having lunch with a talking dog? Well, not much really.” Replied Cole carefreely.

“Maybe videogames have sorta desensitized me to this sort of thing…” He thought that, but didn’t say it.

Both Desri and Zalura smiled at his comment, although Desri let out a bit of an amused snort.

“Sorry to burst yer bubble pal, but you ain’t the first water monkey to come out of yer little blue planet, let ‘lone deal with more advanced races.” Stated Desri in considerable amusement.

“Say what?” He exclaimed, lifting an eyebrow in surprise.

“Ya prolly don’t know, but yer race has been tradin’ with the Oularnian Plutarchy fer over fifty years now.”

“Still, far as I know, your tribal chieftains, or pres’dents as ya call ’em, have chosen to keep all the contacts hidden from the general populace. Dunno why.” Continued Desri after a few more licks of stew.

“Trading? We? With a space empire? B-But what could we have that’s of any real use out here? I don’t think the silly lead-spitters we call weapons or our ”highly advanced robotics” are on high demand out here.” Cole pointed to the faraway Tetlekar as he made his last remark; now this had really shocked him.

“Act’lly, while yer tech might be more prim’tive than in most of the major g’lactic factions, ya ‘ave various unique r’sources dat are pretty sought-after outta ‘ere.” Desri licked out the last of his stew after these words, “Ya ‘ave one o’da largest concentrations of non-solid and barely tainted water in the galaxy, not to mention quite a few deposits of rare energetic minerals.” he added.

“Still, ya can get both o’ those from other places ’round the galaxy; your biggest export is somethin’ ya ‘ave on yerself right now.” Desri poked Cole’s cheek with his right paw playfully.

“Genetics.” He declared boldly.

“While yer intell’gence and lifespan are ’bout av’rage, ye ‘ave one o’ the biggest, most diverse pools o’ genetic material in the known galaxy, both from yer race an’ other lesser non-sentient ones. An’ yer race has an absurdly high reproduction rate; somethin’ many o’ the highest races envy ya for. Yer chieftains ‘ave been tradin’ g’netic material for technology, both ol’ an’ new, for quite som’ time now.” Added Desri as he got up from his seat and stretched himself in his usual dog fashion.

“You mean we export s-slaves!?”Asked Cole in a bit of a fright.

“Hrm, yes ‘n no. While I got to see more than one livin’ human bein’ transport’d or sold som’where, most o’ ’em ”Earthling Exports” were blood, tissue and organs, as well as some livin’ animals as well.” He continued with a relaxed grin, as if smelling Cole’s fright spike.

“Ya guys ‘ave this white, flightless bird ya eat that, while the meat was pretty OK, ’em bones ‘ave been some o’ the tastiest ones I’ve ever crunch’d. Soft enuff for the elderly to chew, yet crunchy enough for a pup to like ’em, and with a real sweet marrow. They don’t survive out ‘ere for long, so they’re rare an’ sought-after, ‘specially by my folks.” Desri was almost drooling, and Cole couldn’t help but imagine an overly-happy Desri digging through the trash of a KFC as if it was a box of candies.

Still, all that was just way more info than Cole could process at once…

————————————————————————————-

Part 2

Even if he had patched up the RV as best as he could, it still had no electricity or whatsoever he could use, as said function relied on the engine of the truck since this old model didn’t came with an extra generation.

Hence, he had to look for an alternate power source; one that would be, most certainly, not of human making.

“What about this one, is it alive?” Asked Cole as he banged his palm softly against the smooth body of some sort of space fighter, or at least, what remained of it, which was about half the thing; the tail and one of the wings had been ripped away, and the body was mangled enough for its original shape to be hard to tell.

“Give me a moment…” Muttered Tetlekar as he put both his hands on the smooth panel. A series of linear patterns showed on his eyes, like many lines of code moving on a screen. The cockpit made a soft humming noise, and a couple of parts lit up on the control board. But almost as soon as it started, it ended.

“… Beaten, but still functioning. This Oscillating Core could probably be what you need the problem is….” As he spoke, Tetlekar ran his metallic index finger over a faded crest on the side of the ship.

It depicted a hexagonal shape, featuring a spiraling tower flanked by two crossed scythes, and with a head shaped like an inverse triangle with bright triangular eyes on.

“… that this be an Irisonian Fighter; the only one who can probably tell you how to make use of it is…. Haudrica.” The concern became obvious on Cole’s face as Tetlekar mentioned that name.

“Well… maybe I can keep searching. I’m sure that there must be other still working power devices out there.” Said Cole as he failed to hide unhappiness.

“Yo guys! Found ya at last!” Hoping from wreck to wreck, Desri came running four-legs towards Cole and Tetlekar.

He panted a bit before continuing.

“Zalura and Mizelle just came back from the scavengin’ run at ol’ Corridor 172, and they said dat ’bout half a dozen o’ new vaults open!” Exclaimed Desri with a wide and toothy grin.

“Problem is, Haudrica’s already gearin’ up to go pick ’em up. But with an arm o’ less, she might not come back; ’em rooms had active Security Units b’fore.” His tone now turned very serious. Tetlekar also frowned upon hearing this statement.

“That isn’t good. Tell her to wait for us; we’ll be there in a moment.” He spoke in a very driven manner.

~~~

“For the last time, my answer is no! I’d rather go in there hog-tied and blindfolded than along with that savage!!” Haudrica’s roar resounded all around.

“Haudrica, you know as well as me that the contents of those storage rooms could feed us all for weeks, and that there’s no way to tell to tell when they’ll open again.” Stated Tetlekar is a mixture of anger and urgency.

“I know, which is why you and me are going to clean them up. But this savage will stay here; tied up to a wreck if possible.” She didn’t even looked at Cole as she spoke; she just pointed at him as if he were a wild animal.

“Zalura and Mizelle already went overboard to bring us that information, and Desri made sure the way there was safe. But, without your left arm, you won’t be able to fight well, nor carry anything, that’s why we should bring Cole along; he can carry the supplies.” Continued Tetlekar in the same tone.

Haudrica looked at her stump, which now looked a bit larger than it did a while ago, before speaking.

“I wonder whose fault is that I’m currently impaired when I’m needed the most, huh?” Her voice was heavy with contempt, directed both at Cole and Tetlekar.

“Yours and yours alone; you could have backed up, you didn’t, and now we’re all going to suffer because of your impulsiveness.” Retorted Tetlekar as he frowned.

“D-Don’t worry, I’m sure I can help with-” Trying to somehow help a bit, Cole began talking, but he was cut almost immediately.

“Be silent, you savage! No one is talking to you!” Haudrica lashed out at him mercilessly.

“Haudrica, don’t do this. If-if you go there by yourself, it could be dangerous.” Reaching out to her remaining arm, Mizelle pleaded out to Haudrica with teary eyes.

She looked at Mizelle with an expression that could only be described as blank; not angry nor happy.

“Huurgh…. Fine, bring the water monkey along.” Letting out a bitter sigh, Haudrica gave in.

“However, he’s your responsibility in there; don’t expect me to absolutely anything to help him, and if I have the need to use him as a meat shield, I will. Now get ready; those open storages won’t stay like that forever.” WIth these bitter words, Haudrica turned around and headed towards her place, which looked like some kind of train wagon, with Mizelle followed after her.

“Sheesh… she simply doesn’t drop it.” Groaned Desri contemptuously.

“Anyhow, come with me, Cole. Yer gonna need some extra gear for this kind of run.” He added as he walked towards his own place.

~~~

When Desri said ”Extra Gear”, Cole had instinctively thought it’d be some kind of laser pistol or plasma chainsaw; some cool thing to defend himself against the critters out there. But instead, he got a lantern tacked onto one of his chest pockets, and one big rucksack filled with many other rucksacks. He couldn’t help but feel really disappointed as he carried them while following after Tetlekar and Haudrica through a series of windy tunnels and eerie corridors.

“We have arrived. Cryovaults Corridor 172. Auxiliary Emergency Supplies, 5th Coreward Wing.” Stated Tetlekar as he read a sort of holomap that projected on his left hand.

For a moment, Cole felt like he was in one big-ass self-storage facility; metal shutter after metal shutter lined the walls, all of them marked with some unintelligible codes and with a sort of computer panel on a side of the door.

Some of the deposits had their panels dark or smashed; the shutters of these were fully open and looked like they had been emptied long ago. The rest of them, however, their panels shone in either a medical green color or a warning red one. The red ones are the most, and there are only a handful of greens, yet the greens’ shutters were open, and they looked full of many brick-sized boxes of a opaline colour.

“What should I do?” Whispered Cole to Tetlekar.

“Fill as many bags you can with those, and stay out of my sight.” Strangely enough, it was Haudrica who replied his inquiry.

Not asking any more questions, Cole emptied the rucksack and began to pack as many of those tiny boxes he could. They felt cold and smooth to the touch, like a metal ingot.

As he did that, Haudrica stood watch in the corridor, and Tetlekar did something to the storage’s panel.

With his hands moving as fast as he could, he managed to fill all the seven bags he had gotten. Still, that hadn’t been even the 20% of the storage’s contents.

“It is done. They won’t be locking this one for some time.” Said Tetlekar satisfactorily. The panel of the storage had become dark.

“Let’s move onto another, then. The more we can have, the better.” That was perhaps the first time Cole had heard Haudrica sound pleased with something.

*Ka-thunk!*

A sound of metal striking against metal suddenly broke the silence, and erased the pleased expressions of both Tetlekar and Haudrica; this couldn’t be good.

“Get inside, quick. Hide behind the pile, and whatever you do, do not move.” Tetlekar was panicked, and this scared Cole far more than an angry Haudrica. Yet she was just as afraid, as she didn’t even mind squeezing herself against Cole and Tetlekar as they hit in a corner of the storage.

*Hooooohumhooooohumhooooohum*

Whatever it was, it sounded like one of those old, tape-fed printers, and it was getting close real fast.

With all of their lights off and carefully measuring each and every breath, the trio remained in the corner, and Cole was stuck with being the one outermost part of the squeeze, yet this also allowed him to notice what they were hiding from.

*HOOOOOHUMHOOOOOHUMHOOOOOHUM*

Its shape was reminiscent of a chess pawn; round head, protruding neck area, and a cone rounded around the bottom for a body. Still, they key differences were that this ”pawn” sported a part of floating, three-fingered claw arms, and wicked, glowing red eye of a pentagonal shape on its head.

It stood right outside the shutter and looked around for a moment. Then it headed to the door’s panel and touched a couple of buttons, nothing happened so it repeated it, nothing once again. Apparently having given up with the panel, he moved to the left, and away of Cole’s sight.

*Shaaa-Pom!*

The all-too-familiar noise of a shutter sliding down and shutting was heard almost immediately. Fortunately, it wasn’t the shutter of the storage they were hiding at. After that one came another and another, up to a total of four more.

*Ka-thunk!*

The striking metal sound echoed from the end of the corridor yet again, and after a short while, silence reigned again. Yet, they all remained unmoving until they were sure the ”pawn” was indeed away.

“Uufgh!” Moaned Cole as Haudrica pushed him out of the way and ran towards the corridor. Her right arm’s blade was out.

“Gone, and it closed the other storages.” Grunted Haudrica as she relaxed her stance and retracted her blade.

“What the hell was that thing?” Asked Cole as he got up.

“A Caretaker Unit. It must have sensed my tampering. We’re lucky it wasn’t a Cleaner Unit or Security Unit, else we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.” Replied Tetlekar as he joined Haudrica in the corridor.

The other storages with green panels that were open had been all closed and their panels turned red.

“Uhm, maybe we should get out of here before more of those things show up.” Cole was still trembling a bit as he said that.

“I concur, we best take what we can carry and-” A sudden flashing red light in his holomap made Tetlekar not finish his phrase.

“This cannot be.” His eyes widened and his tone became one of urgency.

Without uttering another word, he ran towards the way they had come, but he didn’t get too far.

“Damnation…” Cursed Tetlekar under his breath as he put his hand on the shutter that was now blocking their way back. Even Haudrica now looked considerably spooked.

“That Caretaker Unit swapped the tunnels. It means we must now find another way back.” He began to manipulate his holomap as he spoke.

“…. You’re telling me I’m trapped in here with this beast now!?” Haudrica’s fear was soon replaced by anger.

“Fortunatedly for us all, no. There’s another way we can take back to the NVSC9, however, while it’s far shorter, it hasn’t been secured properly and passes right by the Organic Collector 73.” Tetlekar was struggling to maintain his calm.

“Then what should we do?” Asked Cole as he tried to wrap his mind around all that was going on.

“Nothing, at least you two. I’ll make a run for it, scout the route, and bring Zalura with me to clear it.” Replied Tetlekar as he adjusted his necktie.

“What? Do you expect me to stay out here with the savage, doing nothing but hoping that my luck will spare me another encounter with a Unit?” This wasn’t Haudrica’s usual anger but one also laced with fear.

“Yes, and if you both want to live, it’d be best if you don’t come with me.”

“The aberrations on OC73 don’t like the taste of metal, so I will remain unmolested. You two, however, will not be safe.” His tone had become really stern and teacher-like, and while Cole didn’t have much problem with it, Haudrica remained bewildered.

“But you really expect me to-” Haudrica didn’t got to finish her phrase as Tetlekar landed one sound sentence.

“Did you forgot what happened last time?” Haudrica froze upon these words; the fear visible in her face.

“I, no, of course not, dammit. But you really expect me to stay out here with this savage!?” She repeated herself yet again.

“Then make your mind; one lone ”savage” or a pack of aberrations. Make your mind.” Tetlekar’s words were curt, direct and strangely redundant. Haudrica didn’t reply.

“I shall be back before long. If a Unit appears, just hide in the storage room; they can’t control the shutter’s lock anymore, so you’ll be okay.” With these last words, Tetlekar dashed away. It was pretty surprising how fast he could move.

“…” Only silence reigned. At least, until Cole broke it.

“Say-” He didn’t get the chance to speak more; Haudrica’s blade was already pointing at his throat.

“Breath another word out at me and it’ll be your last.” Her tone sounded as angry as usual, but she retracted her blade after delivering this ultimatum.

“Okay…” Thought Cole; he didn’t dare to say it.

“Wonder just how these are used?” He grabbed one of the ingot-esque boxes from the pile still at the storage.

It didn’t seem to have a lid or cap one could open; it looked just like one small block of an opaline-colored polymer, and save for a few unrecognizable symbols on one side, it didn’t show any visible cue on their function.

Meanwhile, at the corridor, Haudrica stood there silently. Her head moving from side to side like a standing fan.

*Whiiiiiiuuuuuuuuu*

Suddenly, a sound caught Cole’s ear. It sounded like a dentist’s drill, and it sounded quite close.

“Hey, do you hear that?” Said Cole as he looked around warily.

“I thought I had told you that if you breathed out another word at me, it would be your last.” Countered Haudrica with her usual threat.

“I’m not joking. Don’t you hear anything weird?” His tone was taking a sound of urgency, but Haudrica failed to notice it.

“The only thing I hear is your annoying noise of your windpipe, so if you-” She spoke in a rather loud and annoyed tone, and that was probably why she couldn’t hear the shutter behind her opening.

*HOHUM!*

This storage was empty, save for some strange brown piles in a corner, and a dusty Caretaker Unit, who emerged from inside with an angry hum.

Upon seeing Cole and Haudrica, its red eye flashed and its tiny arms extended to the side. However, Haudrica was frozen in place.

“Run away!”

*Pwang!*

Shouted Cole as he flung his wrench towards the Unit, hitting it in the head. But that didn’t deter it from going after Haudrica.

“Ah, fuck this!” Again his better judgement, he ran towards the Unit, picked up his wrench and proceeded to beat on it.

*Thang, thang, thang*

He unleashed strike after strike upon the Unit, but it didn’t even seem to notice them; it simply kept advancing upon Haudrica, whom had completely frozen like a deer in the headlights.

“Run, dammit, run!” Cried Cole again, but it was useless.

*Scrutchk*

“Hyaaaaaa!!”

The Unit’s claws reached upon Haudrica’s remaining arm. It made a disgusting crushing sound as it bent in an unnatural direction.

“Let her go, you piece of junk!!” Roared Cole as he landed one last strike on the back of the unit.

*Tilink*

A small metal lid came off the Unit’s back, revealing a tangled thicket of wires a and cables.

“Fucking die!” Following his electrician instincts, Cole reached onto the tangled wires and began to tear them out.

*HOHUHUM!*

This seemingly upset the Unit, as it let go off Haudrica and reached onto Cole’s forearms.

“Uwaaah!!” Cole could feel its overwhelming strength crushing his bones; as if he had stuck his arms in an industrial press. But that didn’t stop him from yanking wires.

The inside of the Unit was roughly as big as a junction box, but despite histearing and yanking of wires in there, Cole didn’t felt any jolts or electricity at all.

*HOOoohuuuumm…..*

As Cole yanked out a handful of wires, the Unit made a protesting sound followed by a soft, humming sound, with its red eye turning dark; it was dead, or more precisely, off.

Its claws, which were still clutching Cole’s forearms, fell apart as if they had nothing holding them together.

Haudrica fell to her knees; she was panting hard and her eyes open wide. This had been as much a shock for her as it had been for Cole.

“Ieagh!” With the effects of adrenaline leaving, Cole began to feel the pain of his wounds; his arms felt heavy and swollen, not to mention the overbearing pain. Even worse, he could feel his consciousness failing him; he was about to faint from the pain.

“ColE HerE, hUrt. HauDRIca toO.” Zalura was running towards Cole, gun in hand and Tetlekar not far behind.

“What happened here?” Tetlekar ran up to Cole as he reached for something in his pocket.

“We got ambushed by an Unit. But I managed to pull the plug on it, haha.” Cole jested a bit in the last part.

“Here, chew on this. Do so until it dissolves, and don’t swallow it.” Explained Tetlekar as he shoved what seemed to be a tiny, bright red square on Cole’s mouth.

Whatever it was, it had a minty taste; more like toothpaste than an actual mint gum, but Cole could feel the swelling in his arms going away.

“Can you stand?” Asked Tetlekar as he took a step back.

He was still feeling a bit dizzy but he managed to. His arms weren’t hurting anymore, but still felt rather heavy. Moving them around seemed to make the heavy feeling go away, but it came back if he stopped moving them.

“Yeah, sorta. How’s Haudrica?” Cole looked past Tetlekar as he asked that. Haudrica’s face looked like that of someone just had faced the reaper but it had passed them by.

“She’s in shock, but she’ll probably be fine once she rests a bit. Fortunately her right arm wasn’t fully torn off, which I guess was thanks to you.” Replied Tetlekar in a rather flat relief tone, as if his mind was off to somewhere else.

“Speaking of that….” His attention turned away from Cole and Haudrica to the disabled Caretaker Unit.

“How did you even manage to hurt this thing, let alone disable it? I have never even seen anyone successfully outrun one of these once they go in pursuit mode.” Asked Tetlekar as he looked at the Caretaker Unit.

“With a good deal of luck and two spoonfuls of desperation.” Jested Cole as he kicked away one of the Unit’s claws.

“I just whacked the thing with my wrench, a service panel of sorts came off, and then I got to play ”Mad Electrician” with its wires. Like I said before, I managed to pull the plug on it.” Perhaps what amused him more was how he had forsaken pretty much every security measure regarding electrical work and not died of a jolt.

“Hm, highly unorthodox, but also fully effective. I must say I am impressed.” Commented Tetlekar as he rubbed his chin.

“TEtlekAr, aLl reaDY, yoU caRrY HauDRIca.” Said Zalura as she cut into their conversation. She was carrying all the seven bags of loot by herself.

Haudrica, on the other hand, was on her knees; staring at the floor with an empty stare. She hadn’t recovered yet.

“… Say, can we take this thing home, too? I really want to figure out how does it work.” Said Cole as he put his hand on top of the head of the Caretaker Unit.

“Sure you jest, Cole. If that Unit were to spring back to life, it could be the end of us all.” Tetlekar sounded most serious.

“If that happens, which I doubt as I pulled each and every wire it had back here, I can just disable it again.” he replied confidently.

“Besides, you said this is the first time someone ever takes down one of these, so maybe there’s something we could learn from its inner workings. Imagine if we could somehow rig this one to open up storages for us? It’s worth a try.” Declared Cole boldly.

Although all he was saying was true, his true motivation was simple curiosity of how these robots worked. Even if he wasn’t 100% certain he’d be able to change its programming, let alone re-enable it, he believed that at least, there was something he could learn from it.

“Hmm… At the very least, we could use it to figure out if they have any weaknesses we could exploit for our own use later. Alright, you can take it.” Replied Tetlekar after a bit of pondering.

“However, you’re fully responsible of whatever happens with it. So if it starts rampaging, I’m throwing it out of the airlock, with you along with it if necessary.” Added Tetlekar as he frowned; his warning had been quite serious, enough to almost make Cole waver.

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Part 3

The way back to the NVSC9 was fortunately uneventful, although when they passed by the place Tetlekar had called the Organic Collector 73, the charred corpses of many nondescript alien beasts laid sprawled around the corridor.

Upon arrival, both Desri and Mizelle were quite relieved to see everyone in one piece, although Mizelle broke into tears as she saw the condition in which Haudrica still was and Desri looked quite nervous regarding Cole’s latest acquisition.

A few day went by with no significant events other than Haudrica coming back to herself and lashing out like crazy and Cole realizing that his wounds had been far more severe than he had imagined.

Although they hadn’t broken, both of his arm bones had cracked in various places, and it could be real dangerous if he made any effort with them, which meant no more scrap diving and wrecks climbing until they healed which, according to Tetlekar, the medicine he had given Cole would make them heal much faster at the cost of increased appetite.

*Nom chomp grumb urp*

The sounds he made as he ate his lunch could have woken up the dead; he was feeling so hungry he had forsaken all kinds of etiquette.

“Paah… That was delicious.” Exclaimed Cole as he finished gobbling his food, which had been some sort of juicy meat ragout.

“ColE EatiNG likE ZALura NOw.” Commented Zalura in a mild amusement.

“But ya ‘ave better et’quette than him. Yer makin’ yerself look like an actual monkey, pup.” Snarked Desri, also in a mild amusement.

“Sorry guys, I had no idea the effects of that tablet would be that strong; it’s just that I feel like I haven’t eaten in months.” Cole wiped his mouth with his sleeve as he spoke.

“I still can’t believe all this food is synthetic. It tastes very real to me.” Added Cole as he looked at his now-empty plate.

Those opaline bricks he had risked his arms and life to gather had actually been what Desri called an ”Organic Block” and served as the resources needed by a food synthesizer they had found among the scrap and managed to restore. It wasn’t by any measure perfect or with a variety of foods available, but Cole was already thinking on ways to fix that.

“That’s ‘cuz the synth’s pretty juiced up organic blocks now; ya ‘aven’t tasted how bad it is when it’s runnin’ low on ’em. We had a few dryouts couple years back where it was almost outta blocks and, be it stew or ragout, it all tasted the same.” Deep disgust was plainly visible on Desri’s face as he spoke.

Not too far from them, Haudrica and Mizelle were having their lunch separated from the rest as usual. But, while Mizelle looked completely normal, Haudrica had been very quiet, almost mute, after her recovery rampage. To the point even Mizelle was a bit worried.

“So, how are yer arms feelin’? Still hurtin’?” Asked Desri as he got up from his seat and headed to the pot for a second serving.

“Not much anymore. They still hurt a bit when I have to put strength into something, but Tetlekar says they’ll be good again in just a couple of days.” Replied Cole as he looked at his arm. The purplish gashed left where the Unit had gripped his arms were still plainly visible.

“In the meantime, I’m gonna try to take apart that Caretaker Unit, and see if I can make some sense of its innards. Never seen a machine like that before.” Cole clutched his hand as he spoke; it was as if he could already hold the tools he was going to use.

“Just be careful with it, yo. Tetlekar wasn’t jokin’ ’bout the airlock thing. He serio’sly hates ’em Units. How else d’ya think he got that scar of his? It was a Security Unit that caught him unprep’red.” Desri didn’t seem to happy about Cole’s Unit either.

“I know, but I think I can do it.”Replied Cole confidently.

“A fictional character in my world once said ‘Machines aren’t capable of evil. Humans make them that way.’ and I think she was right.”

“Anyhow, see you later, guys. I’ve got work to do.” Said Cole as got up and stretched his arms.

He was about to live one of his childhood dreams; dismantling and fixing a robot, and he wasn’t about to let his own fear stop him.

<End of Chapter 2>

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2 thoughts on “Adrift – Chapter 2

    1. I sincerely doubt that a scrapyard owner would be privy to such things. How was he to know it was some random alien trash ship taking his stuff? The first thefts could well have been terrestrial.

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