13th Cycle/10th Hour/97 Hybrid-Era
I stepped out of the smooth stone shower and through a wind wall, blasting the water from my drenched form and unburdening completely all but my hair of water. The constant rain behind me clicked off and the air purifier kicked on, slowly sucking the warm, humid air out of the room until I was met with the familiar chill of living on this planet. Two long strides stopped me in front of the mirror above the sink and there I peered at the man looking back at me. He was tan, weathered, even, greying with deep creases in his forehead. Bags underneath his dark deep-set brown eyes on which rested heavy, flat eyebrows. I grabbed a hair tie from the sink top and pulled back my ruddy blonde and grey strands into a loose bun revealing long squared ears. For a moment I admired my own physique, shaped and trained, and scarred, by years of service and dedication to protecting that which I loved in this world turned upside down by the very megacorp-government that had once promised us a life without strife. Eventually my eyes rested on what was my ultimate reminder that, in a world like this, you had to be ready to give everything to protect the things you cherished. My eyes trailed from the reflection of my cybernetically replaced right arm to the framed portrait of my fiance hanging beside the mirror, her candid laughter bringing a wistful smile to my face.
A resounding knock came at the bathroom door. I took one more moment to admire the russet curls of my late lover before turning to the closet door and pushing it open.
“Yer movin’ slow today, chief,” the raspy adolescent voice bellowed through carried in like air through the vents, “what’d ya fall asleep in there? Let’s go, food’s getting cold.” I rolled my eyes at the last bit.
I made my way into the closet and grabbed a fresh set of warmed clothes, pulling on two layers of thermal lining and padding. I hurriedly tied my boots and strapped on my belt and holsters then grabbed my sidearm and knife. With that I shut the closet door behind me and exited the bathroom into a spacious yet haimish bedroom sporting two pallets, both unmade and surrounded by knick-knacks and hobbies splayed across the hard segmented flooring. The sound of my young and fiery charge listening to the broadcaster carried up the stairs from the open living area below followed by the sounds of her obvious disagreement with most of what was being reported. I started my way down the short flight of wide stairs.
“Would’ya listen to this dreg.”
“…that being said, CyGen Crisis Control Division and Armed Forces are working tirelessly to track down and dismantle these extremist and vigilante groups so that they may refocus their attention on the hybrids and bringing peace back to Abanancie.”
The girl scoffed, “as if.” Without warning, and without looking up, she tossed a pack of condensed food across the room to me from where she sat cross-legged on the floor eating and fitting new treads and lining to her boots.”Fraggin’ CyGen should be all hugs and kisses. We’re fightin’ their screwed up war for them.”
“Yer not fightin’ anything.” I reminded her, looking over the food package before frowning, “ya took the good one, didn’tcha?”
“That was all they had, I swear. And correction, chief, not fightin’ anything yet. Next year I’ll be old enough to start scoutin’ and then – ” She looked up from her work with a grin but it quickly subsided to a look of confusion, brow furrowed and freckled nose wrinkled, “and where do ya think yer goin’? Ya just got back. Ya can’t go anywhere, I…I was gunna do yer boots next.” Her emerald green eyes did their best at mimicking a sad puppy.
I hardened my heart to her pleading, making my way across the room to her and tousling her already unruly jet black hair, “I told yer uncle Wulbin I’d join his patrol today. Do some catchin’ up.”
“Dizzy and I could come!”
I chuckled and shook my head, “two underaged patrollers doesn’t make a proper one. No, you two’ve got plenty to do as it is.”
She sighed and pouted but nodded her head, “fine. But don’t be gone all day. You owe me trainin’. I think my shot’s almost better than yers now.” She grinned.
With that I pulled on a skull cap and gloves and stepped out, eating as I walked. Massive energy pylons basked the cavern town in warm light while hundreds of thermal lines, either hanging through the air or running along the surface of stone, created secondary lighting and highlights throughout. Considering the hour all was quiet but the constant low humming of generators and environmental systems at work. I huffed and observed my own breath dissipating into the air – even at this depth it was still well below five Celsius
A couple tiers down and on a winding path that circled the city, sitting on his rump on a large crate and chomping away at a piece of dried food in the center of town, I saw Wulbin with his oversized, improvised, maul – well, oversized for anyone not the size of a tree. “Ya still luggin’ that thing around?”
The gruff, beareded hulk looked up with a toothy grin and motioned toward me, “better’n that little shiv you’ve got. What’d’ya plan on doin’ with that, eh?”
We shared a brief hug and handshake. It felt good to see my old friend again. He had been like a brother to me for years and looked over Sasha while I was away and healing. It was a sad reunion however, much too short for my liking but there was work to be done. Rights to be wronged. I rummaged through the crate, pulling out my tarnished gauss rifle, a weapon I had once known quite well, and piece after piece of dense polyplate sectional armor most of which still carried the scars, burns, gashes, and fractures, from the last time I had worn them.
“You’re really not going to tell the girl?” Wilburn questioned me, watching me prepare myself and resting on his maul.
“I’d never be able to get her to stay behind. She’d hound me till the end of the Earth.” I tilted my head and glanced at him, “don’t look at me like that. It’s better that she doesn’t know everything besides, she has you and Descen.” I couldn’t tell if I was trying to convince myself or him anymore. I strapped on the last bit of my armor and slung my rifle over my shoulder.
“And when you don’t come back?”
My heart sunk. My chest tightened and I close my eyes briefly. I saw her, the imagine imprinted in my mind. The dimple in her chin. The gentle flush of her full cheeks. The comforting amorous gaze in her sleepy hazel eyes…
“I won’t fail her twice…”
Daily Prompt: Unfinished
Word of the Day: haimish