Thinking back, I should have probably taken a few things more seriously. Pulling my mind back to the current moment, Healer only nodded. “Well don’t say I didn’t try and help you.” He pushed off the bird before stretching out his arms. “I’m heading back into town, but I’ll come to check on you later today. Why don’t you try your hand at hunting in the forest till then?”
I mulled over his suggestion for a moment before I nodded. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to establish that finding food was the 2nd biggest priority. Humans can survive a long time without food. It was a lack of drinking water that killed many more people in survival situations. That being stated, I wasn’t in a pressing survival situation. Being stranded in a strange location without any support was definitely enough to call the situation pressing, but not detrimental.
The village was nearly an hour’s walk from here down the mountain, but the current situation in town was… unfavorable to say the least. However, it wasn’t that I couldn’t enter should I need to enter for supplies. That would definitely require me having to sell or barter for supplies since I didn’t have any money. “What kind of game is nearby?” I asked after giving it some thought, today I would gather what I could from the forest then assess what I could do afterward. I had shelter – the Blackhawk – so that only left food and water to deal with.
“Aside from the monsters; there’s deer, rabbit, mountain goat, and wild pigs. Most monsters are edible.” He looked out into the forest in thought. “Ah, of course, a goblin isn’t. They’re the ones you want to avoid eating the most. They eat just about anything so they’re disgusting.” He said with a chuckle. “Anyways, I’m going to back. Try not to rile up any more trouble till I get back alright?” I could only nod back in response, not really up to adding anything. I watched Healer walk off down the mountain until his figure disappeared into the forest below.
The man seemed okay. I wasn’t that great at judging characters but given my immediate circumstances, I wasn’t going to bite a friendly hand.
For what felt like an eternity, the crash site was silent aside from the fresh mountain breeze that whispered by every now and again as I planted myself on the loose dirt by the Blackhawk’s underbelly. Deep in thought, I tried to come up with a step-by-step action plan. At least, that was what I wanted to do. Now that I wasn’t being fueled by adrenaline coupled with peaceful scenery, the exhaustion finally hit me like an 18-wheeler hitting a kitten. I felt my vision darken and before I could even utter a curse, sleep took me.
The only thing that welcomed me was an unending void of nothing…
. . . . . . .
My eyes stirred momentarily without opening, my throat feeling slightly sore and chilled as I stretched and tried to roll over. The next thing I knew was I felt the sensation of rolling. My eyes shot open and my heart began pumping at 100% as I floundered around, kicking up dirt. My panicking stopped the moment I landed flat on my back. Expecting my white boring ceiling, I instead found a darkened sky with deep orange sunlight coloring a few wisps of clouds. The sky beyond was dark cobalt.
I was shocked, to say the least.
Then the past events flooded back to me and the only thing I could say was an “Oh.” I laid there for a few breaths. Then, I got to my feet. Muscles protested my actions as I stretched my body with a yawn. I felt refreshed, aside from a kink in my neck. “Good evening, Isaac. You have slept a total of 5 hours. ” Hearing Lily’s voice, I suddenly became aware of the headset had been on the entire time I slept. “Ah… Umm… Yeah, good evening.” I greeted Lily back before I turned to the Blackhawk.
“So it really happened,” I muttered to myself as I basked in the wrecked bird’s presence. “Yes. It has been a total of 17 hours since you’ve activated this Tact-Link. I have a report on standby regarding the logs on the device. Would you like to hear it?” I thought about it as I felt my stomach growl. “Go for it. I have to find some food for us.” I said absentmindedly as I checked my gear. “I do not require food, but I appreciate your sentiments.” Lily chirped happily. I felt a little disturbed about how human the AI was becoming. “Do all Tact-Links have AIs that act almost human?” I asked.
“No, only you.” Lily paused. “While I was developed for a different purpose, your father had me copied after I was completed and with a little bit of ‘Elbow grease’ had me repurposed to be your onboard companion..” Lily finished up as I made my way towards the forest below to hunt something. “Why did he do that?” I ask. My curiosity was peaked to say the least. As far as I knew, my father hadn’t played a major role in my life since my mother died. To be precise, he hadn’t played any other role than being the money machine.
Unlike a few other army brats, I didn’t fall into the cliche bad-boy vibe when daddy went away. At first, it hurt. A lot, but I got use to it. Living alone in the big ole’ home mom loved and having a weekly allowance somewhere north of 2Gs, I mostly spent it on gaming, going on on solo adventurers, and sometimes I went out with friends. You’d think such a big check would go a long way, but in the DC Area, going out wasn’t exactly cheap.
“I do not know. I only know from correspondence I was able to view by breaching my developer’s console.” I felt it was a subject that was best left untouched. “Alright.. Give me the report…”
. . . . .
Night had settled in as I tossed two dead horned rabbits top of the Blackhawk’s engine housing before climbing onto it using the neutered rotor assembly. I left my bounties where I had tossed them and carefully lowered myself into the passenger cabin through the open side doors. The inside was dim with the only illumination came from the moon that slowly drifted into the starry night. To my surprise, the night had much more life than the day with the sound of the cicadas singing the sound of their god-forsaken people.
The smell of iron tickled my nose and sent a shiver down my spine. The only visible part that told me where the blood had been spilled was when it’s dark lines crossed the otherwise shiny steel attachment points on the floor. I turned to the seats to the rear. It was strange how it hadn’t crossed my mind when I boarded, but this bird had been modified heavily. Aside from the makeshift computer stand, which had been already ripped out, the double row seats which should have been where the front seat, was reversed.
The front seat sat three feet forward from where the back wall of the bird should have been, with the back seat ingressed by several feet to accommodate a row on the backside of the front. The seat I was in was against the new back of the cabin. The seats weren’t the normal shit seats. They were a step up in being solid with actual cushions. Under the seats were black boxes that had those stainless steel handles that you folded out and twisted to open them.
There was a total of five seats on the back row then three seats on the middle and front. Each with their very own containers. I came in here to see if there was anything useful and seeing containers inside the heli made me happier than when a boy lands on third base. I popped the first one open with some difficulty as whatever was inside had come dislodged and got into the tracks. I had to put my back into it which then turned into me picking up sealed glow-stick packages and some other unmarked baggies. I cursed heavily while I did so.
After getting over my frustration, I came to the rational conclusion I now didn’t need to fumble in this dimly lit cabin now. I opened up a stick and broken the glass ball inside with a satisfying crack. Greenlight exploded from it as I tied its complimentary string on its hook and looped it around my wrist. I fumbled through the rest of the drawers. My loot from my raiding came out with; bundles of paracord, a large tarp, a package of bic lighters, several thermal blankets, a couple of knives, and a hell of a lot of glowsticks – better known as chemlights.
Putting those aside, wrapped up in the thermal blankets, I also found plenty of electronics like radios and military tablets, but everything was fried. I left everything I couldn’t use on the dirt at my feet and turned to raid the front of the chopper. I bought the light over, but after seeing the horror scene that was where the crew had been – I quickly abandoned that idea along with a little gagging.
. . . . .
“I see you’ve made yourself comfortable.” I heard healer’s voice along with his the shifting of dirt below his leather boots. “Welcome to my little home.” I tried to make a joke, but the tired look on my face must have given it away. ” I see you hunted yourself some Horned Rabbits.” He said he sat on my freshly made dirt benches-slash-trench. After I had raided the bird, I quickly went to work on building a temporary shelter. The bird itself could have been used as one, but at the current moment – it was unusable.
I had pooled as much loose dirt to the base of the Blackhawk’s underbelly to make a little raised platform for myself. After making a half-decent semi-leveled area, I used the tarp to make a make-shift tent. I tied some paracord to the inside of the helio and stretched it out so it was flush with the lip. I angled the tarp when I used a broken rotor blade to weigh down the tarp at the bottom.
I had then dug out a large pit for the fire to cook. Actually, I had made the pit too big when I overestimated what I needed and so I ended up using the excess as a sitting room when cooking. When it came time to cook, I had to skin and gut the rabbits, to which I was not familiar with and ended up ruining one. I learned my mistakes with the first one and I was able to prepare the second rabbit. That one got skewered through its butt and I roasted it like a marshmallow at a Boy Scout Camping trip – without the molestation of course.
Cheap shots at the Boy Scouts aside, the night itself was peaceful and soothing. Something I hadn’t felt in a long time, current predicament not included.
After charring my food and dealing with overcooked meat, Healer came back a little after dinner. Healer came by to check on me. “I checked around for you and Arnold isn’t going to deal with you right away. I managed to get the mayor to tie him up a little.” He said as he found a clean spot to sit down. “Well, I didn’t do it, but news that gold veins were discovered and the two are going to be too busy for a few days to deal with anyone.” Healer shook off the bag he had been carrying and handed it to me.
“For you.” It was a work brown thin leather bag with a single large flap on the top. I opened it up and inside were several strange bags. “Waterskins. Figured you’d need water.” He said. “Why are you helping me?” I asked without testing the waters. With that question, the conversation crashed and burned. The only thing between us now was the silence that was broken by the crackling of my campfire every few seconds. “Can’t I help you out of the goodness of my heart?” Healer finally replied after a good couple of minutes.
“No,” I said coldly. I had a feeling he was withholding information from me. It was like a nagging feeling similar to when you know you need to pee. Well, I didn’t, so I could only assume he was holding something back. He shrugged his shoulders refusing to answer any more on the topic. “Look, I appreciate the help, but you can take the skins back if you’re not going to tell me. I’m not going to accept any gifts if there are strings attached.” I said in my best ‘It’s time for you to leave’ voice as I closed the bag and handed it back to him.
Healer looked like I had just kicked his puppy when I held the bag out to him. His scowling intensified when I dropped the bag to his feet. “It’s rude to return a gift.” He said. “It’s also rude to give a gift if there are strings attached. That doesn’t make it a gift at all.” I said, keeping eye contact. We were locked in a stalemate for a good few minutes before he relented just as I was about to. “Fine. Take it as payment for killing the Goblins. If you hadn’t deal with them, the town would have exploded into war. Those two idiots would have tried to take advantage of the chaos. We don’t have enough people to defend if half of them are trying to kill each other.”
I didn’t say anything else as I grabbed the bag and dragged it back over to me. “See? That was easy.” Like a bad Office Depot ad, I started pulling the skins out which were about the size of water bottles and made from treated leather. “So why the hesitation to tell me?” I asked as I opened a skin and poured water out through its wooden neck. “Because I don’t like getting outsiders involved in our problems, but I also don’t like owing debts.” Healer said as he got up. “So I take it you’re going to get involved in the fight now that you know?”
Healer didn’t sound quite happy when he asked that. I was originally going to refuse, but at the current moment, I couldn’t move the Blackhawk and I wasn’t going to let it fall into anyone’s hands. “Since this baby.” I paused as I patted the scratched up underbelly of the helio. “Can’t move, I might as well jump into the fight since I’m already involved.”