Chapter 2:

A Lost Child, Part 2


The young boy, who was slowly getting used to being called Caleb, followed Kyle and Ella as they walked out of the ruined city and into the desolate wastelands surrounding it. The two were worried for Caleb, as he was still only wearing a regulating suit which was fairly thin and unsuited for long periods of travel, but thankfully the weather was temperate at best, and Caleb himself did not seem uncomfortable just yet.

“I suppose we should talk to Computer first, right?” Ella asked doubtfully. “We've never come across anything like this before, after all.”

“Of course,” Kyle replied. “I'll contact it right now, so give me a moment.”

Kyle pressed two fingers against his temple. “Can you hear me, Computer?” he called out after waiting a few seconds. “I need to speak to you about something important.”

As Kyle continued to speak, Caleb watched him with an equal mix of curiosity and confusion. “What's he doing?” he asked Ella. “Who's he talking to?”

“Er, it's a little difficult to explain right now,” Ella replied awkwardly, as if not sure how to approach the subject. “Well, just be patient. It's a very complicated situation, so we want to make sure we have the time to explain it all to you.”

Caleb still seemed doubtful, but he quickly nodded his head to show that he understood. Seeing that, Ella smiled and gave him a little pat on the head.

“You know, you're kind of adorable now that you've got some color in your cheeks. How old are you again? Oh, sorry. I guess you wouldn't know.” Ella looked the boy up and down as she tried to figure out his approximate age. “Well, you still look like you could be in elementary, so... maybe about ten? I suppose it doesn't really matter, though.”

“Why doesn't it matter?”

“Why? Well...” Ella looked uncomfortable, as if she didn't want to answer that. Thankfully, she was saved by Kyle, who had just finished his call.

“I've finished speaking with Computer. Sure enough, it wants us to go all the way back to base in order to give our report.”

“Back to base, huh?” Ella sighed. “Well, I can't say I didn't expect it.”

Kyle leaned down and looked Caleb in the eyes. “We're going to be walking for quite a bit, so don't be afraid to stop us if you're tired or hungry, okay?”

Caleb nodded. Kyle gave him a small smirk and stood up. “Alright, let's get going.”

The three began walking into the wasteland. Caleb did not know where they were going, but as long as he followed Kyle and Ella, he knew he'd be fine. Having said that, he had no idea how either of them knew where they were going; to him, it looked like they were arbitrarily choosing to make odd detours or sudden changes in direction.

The truth, however, was that the both of them were receiving satellite mapping images directly to their brains, along with directions that provided the most optimal routes to their destination. It might have seemed haphazard to Caleb, but Kyle and Ella were actually marking out a trail that would take them to their goal as quickly as possible.

The two of them, however, had failed to factor in one specific detail: that Caleb was just a young boy who was still getting used to moving his body around after hundreds of years in cryostasis. Because of that, while the route the two were taking would certainly cut down on travel time, it also forced them to trek through areas that were quite difficult for Caleb to traverse on his own.

Now, Kyle had told Caleb to let him know if he was feeling tired or struggling with the journey, and Caleb had remembered that. However, he felt reluctant nevertheless; after all, he was a little boy in an empty world with no memories. He had grown attached to the two who had saved him, and he didn't want to be a burden on them. He was desperate to not be left behind in this desolate wasteland.

And so, Caleb quietly endured the difficult trek, using willpower and resolve to push himself through the tougher parts of the journey. However, that willpower and resolve slowly drained over the course of the day, and as the three were hiking along the top of a large and steep gravelly hill, Caleb suddenly felt his legs give out from under him, and unable to balance himself, he suddenly tipped over and fell down the side. As he slid down the hill, Caleb couldn't help but let out a panicked cry.

The moment they heard him cry out, Ella dashed down the hill, reaching Caleb in an instant. At the speed she was going, however, she couldn't help but trip herself, but she quickly got back up and grabbed Caleb before he could fall any further. Now that Caleb was safe, she quickly leapt back up to the top of the hill where a worried Kyle was waiting for her.

“I'm sorry, Caleb! I should have been checking on you to make sure you were all right!” Kyle said with worry. “You're not hurt badly, are you?”

Caleb shook his head. Though his slide against the dirt certainly hurt, the regulating suit had taken the brunt of the damage. Kyle let out a sigh of relief.

“More importantly, I said that you should have told me if you were tired, didn't I? Why didn't you say anything?”

“I'm sorry,” Caleb whimpered, his eyes filling with tears.

“No, it's not all your fault,” Kyle sighed. “I guess it's been a long time since I've had to take care of a kid. I'm forgetting the basics.”

Caleb was confused by what Kyle had meant by that, but for time being, he was more worried about Ella. She had taken a bad fall too, and it was much more violent of a descent than Caleb's was. Thankfully, she didn't seem too bad off except for three large gashes along the side of her right forearm.

However, something was strange about her injury. There was no blood, and the wounds left on her arm seemed as if they were closing up on their own. Caleb rubbed his eyes, but he was not mistaken; it was as if the skin cells were liquefying and coming back together after being rent apart. Ella noticed where Caleb was staring and suddenly covered her arm.

“Oops! Guess I missed a spot.”

Kyle sighed. “Well, I didn't think we could keep it a secret for very long anyway.” He glanced down at Caleb. “I'm sure you have a lot of questions, but this isn't the best place for a conversation. Let's talk on the way, alright?”

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