The duality of being Grey
Blythe, CA, midway station of the Resurrection Run
“Grey, have you seen Kendrick?” asked a gruff and rumbly voice over the comm.
Grey shook his head and signed “no”, his translator, repeating it audibly in a feminine and lascivious voice.
Grey grinned back to the old man who was working in the distance. He knew Jim’s old eyes couldn’t make out what he signed from that far away. He dropped his VR goggles and zoomed in to see Jim shaking his head ‘exactly-annoyed’ by the voice as he had planned.
He knew what was next. He would have to go find Kedrick passed out somewhere under a bush or in a gully. He adjusted his desert camouflage balaclava and poncho and made sure he had his pointy sticks out of sight. He then smelled himself through his collar trying to find any stench. He was a little salty but nothing to offend. There had been recent complaints about his odor, but he couldn’t smell anything.
He stood on the fractured roof of a collapsed and desiccated hydrogen fueling station. It sat just outside the walled safety of the Blythe drive port. He looked out towards the rising sun and was eager to get back on the road. He had already uploaded all the maps into his goggles and was ready, but he would have to deal with Kendrick first.
“Caravan’s mounting up. Grab the med-gun and get him in. He’s probably still drunk. I want him scouting in 20. We need to get this load of copper to Phoenix by six tonight or we lose our bonus. Give me a west sweep while you’re out there,” said Jim, “And don’t use the sexy voice anymore.”
Grey already had the med-gun with six doses of diagnostic and repair ampules loaded. He was never without it.
He tabbed a dial on the gun and an easy-to-use hologram display spit out into his HUD. He selected his prescription, and with a jab to his wrist and a quick hiss, it dumped thousands of molecule-sized protein machines into his bloodstream. He knew they were programmed to block various histamines and regulate serotonin to keep him mentally active. He was still focused in the morning but knew it would fade.
This was the duality of being Grey. Without medication, he would start to slow down and eventually become catatonic. It would take several hours, maybe even a day, but it would happen. He felt, at his core, incomplete, imperfect, and tethered to his med-gun. Though he was young the ice war had taken its toll on him too.
His scars ran deep.
Grey gave a wave to Jim, to acknowledge the order, then skittered from the rooftop to the desert floor.
Two small drones, named ‘The Two, and The Three’, followed him. Each aerodynamic pod was less than 12 inches with four struts that each had a ‘Higgs Pod’ at the tip. They emitted a chromatic array that looked like fiery wings. Grey understood they were the result of the Higgs Array reaching out and gathering ambient particle transition energy from the power grid. They looked like glowing butterflies, flickering in the early dawn. Outside of Kendrick, these were his best friends.
Fast and wily, they linked their eyes to his goggles granting him a bird’s eye view of the area.
Grey jaunted out across the dry waste of the Palo Verde Valley. The rising sun warming his cheeks, letting him know that it would soon be hot. A swift wind tussled his long bangs and hit him with a blast of hot dust.
He adjusted his goggles and ordered the drones, with a wave of his hand, to do a sweep of the area. The images from the drone’s camera beamed into his HUD, giving him a sky-high view.
He didn’t see Kendrick, but there was movement on highway 10, the spine of the Resurrection Run. A small convoy of solar-powered trucks was heading towards them from the west. Probably fruit traders from Coachella.
He tapped in the air, interacting with a dial board in his HUD, and transmitted, with the sexy voice: “West, 4 trucks, solar-powered, eastbound, sweetie,” The vocal overlay added lusty, superfluous words.
He began to chuckle but was interrupted by the neurochemicals in his brain adjusting. His eyes dilated, and his senses realigned as the protein bots kicked in. It then washed across him like a warm blanket holding him tight in the cold dark night. It always took a few minutes to hit him, and it always stopped him in his tracks. One more thing to make him odd.
He took a deep breath and focused. He was second scout for the caravan, a roadie, and he had a job to do. Jim was counting on him.
After a few minutes of kicking past tumbleweeds and climbing ridges, he found Kendrick laying on his back, half-naked, and sobbing. His skin had adapted and was darkened by the sun and made his platinum blonde poof of hair stand out more. His right hand was visibly swollen. Grey knelt down by Kendrick and made sure his translator was reading out loud.
“WE GO,” Grey’s translator said in his usual adult robo voice.
“I’m dying,” replied Kendrick.
“YOU NO DIE. WE FIGHT 100,” Grey dusted the insects and dirt off Kendrick’s discarded shirt.
“We’re only at 32 fights. I’m already dead, leave me,” he said dramatically.
Grey tugged on Kendrick trying to sit him up, but Kendrick wasn’t helping. He let him crash back into the dirt and jabbed him with the med-gun. It released its diagnostic swarms and a beam of laser and infrared light. The tiny cell-sized constructs zipped through his bloodstream, relaying information back to the gun. It then programmed the second batch of bio-bots to bond and remove toxins.
“Why are you doing this? Are you still mad about ‘Sticky icky icky and The One?” asked Kendrick.
Grey breathed deeply and tried to speak. More than anything in the world he wanted to talk, but even the thoughts of words overwhelmed him. The anxiety was too much, and he would risk fading out. He, instead, jabbed Kendrick with the med-gun’s second dose as his response.
“I hate you. No one needs three drones,” Kendrick muttered as he stood up and shuffled towards the village.
Grey smiled at the fact that he hadn’t included an analgesic in the dose.
“Is Jim pissed?” asked Kendrick.
Grey signed ‘no’ and directed the drones into a preset recon pattern with a subtle flick of his wrists. He watched and waited, to give the “All -Clear”, but then he saw something glimmering in the distance. Unsure of what it was, he had his drones zoom in to clarify.
“Is there any serum left in the med-gun? It’s not helping with the hangover,” said Kendrick, “Grey, you programmed it to address the hangover, right? You didn’t forget to take your shot this morning, did you?”
“WEST, INCOMING FAST-MOVERS; NORCAL MILITARY! FAST MOVING AIRCRAFT!” Grey signed frantically as it transmitted on the comms and speaker.
“Awe fuck my life, not right now,” said Kendrick.
Grey’s anxiety dulled as he dialed up and jabbed himself with a dose of battle meds. An attack was coming, and he and Kendrick were needed.