Chapter 5:

A Lost Child, Part 5


Traveling as a remainer was quite convenient. With cybernetic bodies that did not feel fatigue or pain, a remainer could travel for miles without rest, making treks that would be daunting without transportation simple. Furthermore, they had no need for food or water, with their nanomachines and cybernetic frames being powered by the energy of the sun.

Caleb, however, was a normal human boy, which meant that Kyle and Ella couldn't travel at the pace they usually would. They had to take breaks fairly often and they had to avoid overly sunny places to avoid Caleb collapsing from heat stroke or exposure. They also needed to procure supplies for Caleb, as he also needed plenty of water and food, something the remainers didn't have on hand as they didn't need to eat. Kyle and Ella made up for this deficit by looking for places to collect water and hunt animals while traveling.

Caleb did his best to help out in these areas, but in the end he was still a young boy with no memories, so there was little he could do aside from staying out of Kyle and Ella's way. Nevertheless, he did his best to watch how they went about their work so that one day he could do it himself. After all, he had a good idea of what the world was like at this point, and he knew that if he didn't learn to fend for himself, he wouldn't be living for long.

The group traveled like this for several days, slowly making their way to the destination Computer had designated for them. After another early morning trek along crumbling highways and desolate wastelands, Kyle pointed out a collection of ruined buildings in the distance.

“There's our next job site. Only a mile out from here, by my estimate. Caleb, are you going to be all right?”

“Yep,” Caleb nodded enthusiastically. “I don't need another break.”

Kyle smirked as he and Ella continued marching towards the ruins in question. Once they were closer, it became quite clear that the place used to be a city, though nature had done its best to eat away at what once was a bustling hub of human civilization.

“Looks like this used to be a fairly small city,” Kyle remarked to Caleb, who had no clue how big cities could get. “Computer specifically told us to head to the town's center. We'll take a short break here, then head out.”

The trio quickly looked for a place that sheltered them from the sun, then sat down as Caleb ate his lunch, a smoked fish that Kyle had caught earlier that day.

“If we were more prepared, we could have made something more long-lasting, like jerky,” Kyle remarked as he watched Caleb eat. “I'll have to talk to Computer about procuring the necessary resources.”

“We also need to find a reliable source of water,” Ella added. “I'd say that's more important than food right now.”

“I might ask Computer to give us a few days' break just to take care of all this,” Kyle remarked dryly.

“I'm sorry you have to go to all this trouble for me,” Caleb remarked shyly.

“No need to worry about that,” Kyle said reassuringly. “It's not like we're in a rush or anything.”

“And stop apologizing,” Ella chimed in. “It's not like you're being spoiled or anything like that. You need to eat to survive, after all.”

Once Caleb was done eating and recovered some of his strength, the trio continued walking through the ruined streets of the city. Caleb marveled at the sight of great destroyed buildings and eroded vehicles left abandoned on the side of the road. It was sobering evidence that the world had indeed ended while he was asleep.

Eventually, the trio arrived at the town center, where a giant pool of water sat in the middle of the main intersection. Kyle crouched down by the edge of the water and inspected it closely.

“What did Computer ask you to do here?” Caleb asked curiously.

“Well, supposedly this water began collecting here after years and years of rainfall eroded away at the roads here, creating a large crater where water collected. The pool is only going to get bigger, so my job is to see if this being here might cause any structural damage. After that, I need to check if it's possible for this pool of water to become a habitat for new life to grow.”

“What about Ella?”

“Well, if Kyle determines that the pool could support the development of a new habitat, Computer will most likely have the city around it dismantled to help with the development of the natural flora and fauna,” Ella explained. “In that case, I need to search the city for anything that might be useful to us remainers before they do that.”

“I see,” Caleb hummed thoughtfully. He was starting to see how each remainer's job connected to the others, even if they hardly ever interacted.

“I doubt my job will be all that interesting to you, Caleb,” Kyle remarked as he gazed down at the pool of water. “Why don't you follow Ella for the time being?”

“You passing off your babysitting job to me?” Ella remarked unamused.

“It's just for a bit.”

“Fine,” Ella sighed. “Come on, Caleb. This city isn't all that big, but we're going to have a lot to cover.”

Caleb followed Ella as she sauntered through the streets of the ruined city. Though she seemed reluctant to watch over him, she still took care to slow her walking speed so that Caleb could follow without having to run, and she waited for him if he needed time to make it over obstacles that she easily surmounted. He quietly realized that Ella also was looking after him in her own way.

As the two began scrounging the city, Caleb was surprised to see how little the city had to offer, despite its size. Sometimes Ella would pass through entire buildings without looking in, and other times she would write off areas with just a single glance.

“What kind of things are we supposed to look for?” Caleb asked, attempting to get a sense of the mental rubric Ella was using in her head. “I can't really tell just by watching you.”

“When it's a rather open-ended mission like this one, it's usually a search for tools and materials,” Ella replied as she peeked into what looked like an old supermarket. “Anything that's still intact and can be fixed up is ideal. Other than that, machinery or electronics that aren't usuable but can be broken down is also good.”

“I see. So there's not a lot here that's useful?”

“Well, I don't know if I would put it that way,” Ella replied. “There's a lot here, but this city is fairly old. Plus, we're talking about centuries of decay and erosion due to wind and sun. Anything out in the open like this isn't worth picking up.”

Ella yawned and stretched as she once again wrote off another large building. It was not a true expression of exhaustion, but rather a habit left over from her days as a human. She glanced back at Caleb, who couldn't help but look at awe at the destroyed city in front of him.

“How is it?” she asked curiously. “Does looking at this city help you remember anything?”

“Not really,” Caleb answered sheepishly. “I sort of remember what things are supposed to be and what they're called, but nothing else.”

“I see.” Ella seemed a bit forlorn. “Well, that might be for the best.”

“Why's that?”

“Well, you don't remember your life before entering cryostasis, right?” Ella explained. “That means you won't miss the life you used to have, or the people you once called family and friends.”

Caleb didn't know what to say in response. He had never thought about it, but if he'd had his memories, he'd probably still be reeling from the thought that he'd never see his family or friends again. Then he remembered that Ella and Kyle used to be human as well, even if it was centuries ago. They must have had family and friends that they hadn't been able to see for a long time. He wondered if Ella was feeling the loneliness she thought he'd feel, but he realized it would be better not to ask.

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