Chapter 12:

True Bonds, Part 6


The following came from a report given by remainer Caleb.

At first, it seemed as if there was no problem at all. Caleb had even started to get bored, but knew that he would get a scolding if Kyle and Ella caught him trying to sneak into the facility after them, so he stayed put at base, snacking on some jerky as his lunch.

Then, he suddenly heard a massive explosion rock the area. At the time, he had thought that it was an aftershock, and ran out to check on Kyle and Ella once the shaking had stopped. What awaited him was a horrific sight; the rock the facility was found in had crumbled, falling deeper into the nearby crevasse. Though it had stopped short of falling all the way down to the bottom, it had fallen a fair distance, so much so that it would be dangerous for Caleb to attempt to reach it on his own.

That hadn't stopped him from trying. Caleb had done a bit of rock climbing with Ella before, and while this was a much more treacherous climb than anything he had ever done, it wasn't impossible for him to reach the rock that Kyle and Ella were trapped within.

He ran back to the camp and grabbed the climbing equipment that Ella had left behind, but before he made it back, he suddenly heard a voice come in from the communicator that he was wearing on his ear.

“Caleb... Can you hear me?”

“Kyle, is that you?” Caleb asked worriedly. “Don't worry, I'm coming to save you!”

“Don't do that,” Kyle replied, his voice somewhat shaky. “My communicator is damaged. Can't contact Computer. It'll probably notice anyway, but just in case, I need you to go back to the relay tower and make sure that rescuers are sent out for us.”

“But that'll take too long!” Caleb argued. “It would take days just for me to get back to the tower!”

“Anything is better than you risking your life by trying to get down here,” Kyle shot back. “Don't think that you're good enough to rescue us on your own, because you aren't.”

Caleb wanted to argue back, but he couldn't. Kyle was right, after all; he wasn't good enough to pry Kyle and Ella out of the rubble by himself, and he knew it. He didn't want to admit it, but Kyle's orders made the most sense.

Caleb got up from the cliff and turned around. He walked away from the collapsed facility, not saying a single word. He felt that if he said goodbye, or even said a single word of acceptance, that he would never see the two of them ever again. He simply walked away, desperate to get back to the relay tower as soon as he could.

Before he did, however, he heard one final thing from Kyle, before he walked out of the communicator's range.

“Live a long life, Caleb. That's all we ever wanted from you, even if we never get to see it.”


It was the first time that Caleb had ever gone on a long trek on his own. Every other time, he had been accompanied by either Kyle or Ella, and they never took him farther than half a day from the cabin they lived in. But now, he was on a several-day trek back to the relay tower and he needed to make it back on his own.

It was also the first time that Caleb had ever cursed himself for not having a cyborg body like other remainers. If he did, then he would have been able to make a beeline straight for the relay tower without having to stop for anything. However, he was a flesh-and-blood human, meaning he occasionally had to stop to catch his breath or eat and drink. He tried not to sleep too often, but fatigue got the better of him, and he quickly realized that pushing himself to go without sleep actually made his progress slower.

In the end, Caleb forced himself to take the journey slowly, sleeping when he needed to and taking rest in the shade when the sun was too hot. He could feel his impatience creep up at times, but he had to ignore it. If he collapsed from exhaustion, it would take even longer for him to make it back.

After three days of travel, Caleb finally made it back to the relay tower. Exhausted, Caleb pushed past the doors and collapsed onto the floor, panting and heaving. He likely would have passed out on the spot were it not for an echoing voice that reverberated through the room.

“Caleb. What are you doing back without Kyle and Ella?”

Caleb immediately shot up once he heard Computer's voice. That was right, he was here for a reason! He had plenty of time to pass out after he reported the situation to Computer.

“You need to send rescuers to that location as soon as possible!” Caleb pleaded. “Kyle and Ella went into an underground facility, but something happened and the whole place crumbled!”

“I see something went wrong after all,” Computer remarked. “Don't worry. I actually noticed Kyle and Ella's signals get cut a couple of days ago. I've long sent rescuers out.”

“That's a relief,” Caleb sighed as he sank to the floor. A part of him wanted to complain about why he bothered to make the trek when they were already coming, but he was just thankful that Kyle and Ella would not have to wait too long for rescue. He supposed Kyle also just wanted to make sure that he wasn't left waiting out in the wasteland either. Having accomplished what he'd set out to do, Caleb felt the weight of exhaustion hit his body and passed out cold.

He did not wake up until several hours later, muscles sore from sleeping awkwardly on the floor. He got up and looked around, hungry. He was still on the ground floor, and no one had come by since he'd passed out. It would undoubtedly be a while before news of Kyle and Ella would reach the tower, so he had little to do for the time being.

With little to do, Caleb headed to the food storage room he was at before. He gathered a bit of jerky, nuts, and dried fruits to fill his empty stomach, then walked up to the top of the tower to speak with Computer. He wasn't sure if Computer noticed that he had woken up, though it was probably too busy to bother with him.

When he reached the room that housed the massive monitor Computer displayed his avatar on, Caleb knocked lightly on the front of the door. “No need for niceties,” echoed out a voice from within. “Come on in.”

Caleb nervously entered the room and looked up at the blue polygonal head staring down at him from the display. He couldn't read the emotion on Computer's face (if it had the capacity to display emotions in the first place), so he had no idea if anything had happened or if nothing was wrong.

“Is there any news?” Caleb asked cautiously. “You sent them out a while ago, so they should have arrived by now, right?”

The head nodded. “Indeed. Though unfortunately, it isn't good news.”

Caleb felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Even if they're badly damaged, they can fix it up, can't they? Cause of the nanomachines.”

“Unfortunately, it seems like the extent of the damage is more than the nanomachines can fix. Their core circuits have taken critical damage. That's what allows their cybernetics to function.”

It was the worst outcome. That sinking feeling turned into a wrenching pain in Caleb's chest. “Now what, then? Are they gone for good?”

“Not exactly,” Computer replied. “We do have some contingencies in case of situations like these.”

“There is?!”

“The remainers all have nanomachine brains, after all. Memories are frequently digitized in case massive structural damage is done to the cyborg body.”

“That's great!” Caleb began to feel hope returning. “Then all they have to do is get fixed and they'll be fine, right?”

“Not exactly,” Computer interjected. “The backups do not occur very often, I'm afraid. We can certainly rebuild and restart them from the last backup, but... that would go back about ten years or so.”

Caleb's face fell. He knew what that meant without Computer having to clarify. It would mean that the five years he had spent with Kyle and Ella – two people that he saw as his family – would be completely erased from their memories. Even if they were repaired, they would come back as people who wouldn't remember him.

“It's a very unfortunate situation,” Computer remarked. “But at the very least, they will live. If I inform them of their lost memories, I am certain that the three of you can restore your former relationship.”

“No... Rather than that, just make me a fully-fledged remainer.”

“I don't understand. Is there a problem with my proposition?”

“I don't really want to get into it. Can you not make me a remainer?”

“I certainly can, but... Are you sure? There's surely much you still have to learn.”

“I'm sure,” Caleb said resolutely, then turned to leave. “Sorry, but I'd like to be alone for a bit.”

As Caleb left the room, he wondered if Computer was able to understand why he'd made the decision that he did. He knew that Computer was right; if he told Kyle and Ella that they had been living together as a family for the last five years, it would have confused them, but they would easily accept what he had to say.

But even if they had accepted it, they could never go back to the way things used to be. After all, even if Caleb could tell them everything about their time together, they would only be stories told to them by someone else, not memories they had themselves. It was just like Caleb's own lack of memories; even if he could find some trace of his family, he doubted it would give him any sense of nostalgia or longing.

If it was like that, then he didn't want to waste his and the new Kyle and Ella's time by trying to preserve something that was already lost. The two of them were the closest thing he had to family, and while he still treasured them as such, he accepted that they were gone for good.

Instead, he wanted to remember Kyle's last words to him. Live a long life. Caleb had no real goal in life, and with the world the way it was, he had doubts that he could ever accomplish anything worthwhile. But at the very least, he would try to live his life to the fullest for as long as he could. As long as he could do that, he felt like he could honor them. After all, wasn't it the child's duty to carry on their parents' wishes? In that way, he felt like the three of them had become a real family, one that was connected by intangible bonds.

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