I am looking up into a sky split into two halves. The left hand side is a dimmed blue, filtered, corrected. The right side is glaring, lit by a huge white sun. Dividing the two, a zig-zag line of sharp edged glass has leaked a greasy liquid. One side of my face is burning, the other cold. Somewhere in the middle, just a thin strip, it's about right.
As an experiment, I close my right eye. It isn't helping much, as all I can see is the sky. As I lie thinking, it occurs to me that I am lying on my back, and can, if I want to, move. Slowly, I rotate my head. A Soft whirring sound accompanies my head movement, but the view has changed and the glaring light lessened. To the side I know as left, a wide plain stretches as far as I can see. It is mostly -no, it is all- flat, brown rock. Nothing else moves. No threats present. The last sentence isn't me speaking, but something else, more a signal than a voice. I don't know where it is, but it is close, and for the moment it's a comfort.
I try again, this time moving right. All is well until my head is about two thirds round, then a grating noise judders my vision and my head stops. Looking as best I can, though the light has returned, I see the same plain, but this time strewn with shapes. Some are long and thin, some round, some like stars. The ground is disturbed in places, cratered and churned up, particularly around the shapes.
The left side of my vision has filled with coloured lines. A scan of some kind. The signal has commanded it, it may be important. The lines pick out each shape in turn, fill it with colour, then a series of letters appears underneath. I read some of them, they sort of make sense.
Wreckage, type 37 Bio-enh-suit:- spent.
Wreckage, type unknown:- spent.
The light is glaring too much now, so I am going to move. Relaxing my thoughts, the signal comes in. It recommends a full system check. I brace myself for whatever that is and the signal continues. There are several beeps, then the screen fills with text. It appears to list all the systems I have, but most of it is meaningless to me. Besides, the results of the check seem to be on the right side of the display, which of course is nowhere to be seen. I decide to stand up, and if I make it I'll take it from there.
With a lot of effort and much grinding and complaining on the display, I am now upright. It appears I have the use of two legs, although the right one isn't perfect, and my left arm, which is "functional." I can't turn my head all the way right, or do anything with my right arm. There is also a pain, like fire, in my middle region from my right shoulder to my waist. The signal says I am damaged but mobile. The display says I am vulnerable, and should... but the advise is on the right half, again.
The first thing I do is turn my back on the white light. My face is still hot but the relief is instant. I can see properly for the first time, if the display will stop drawing lines around everything.
I walk over to the nearest wreckage. It consists of a large central mass, with two long attachments at one end. The top half, above chest height, is missing. Two different liquids have ran out onto the bare rock. The dark one has dried, the lighter, oily one has gathered in a pool in a shallow depression. It refracts the sunlight in iridescent patterns of orange and purple. It is quite pretty.
I reach out to examine the melted edge of the mass. Its construction and materials are like my arm. A certain heaviness settles on me as I realise we are, were, the same.
The voice says there is no threat here, nor useful repair items or weaponry. The visor says "move on to avoid..."
I move on. The signal is silent on the direction I am to take. So, with my back to the sun, I walk off. My gait is light and flowing, I cover a lot of ground. Occasionally, my right leg starts to drag, but a boost of something brings it back to speed.
The right half of my vision begins to dim, although the left side is fine, if a little green. I realise the sun is setting, it will soon be dark. A green matrix fills the left side of my vision, with the odd fuzzy green dot, some bright some dark. There isn't much to see anyway. The signal recommends I keep moving under cover of darkness. So I do.
Later still, the sun appears in front of me, glowing orange, not at all like the white of before. Again my visor says I am vulnerable and should seek shelter. A full 360 degree scan produces nothing but flat plains. I am deciding what to do when a small movement captures my attention. Before I know it the visor has locked on and zoomed in on a small dust cloud. My body turns in that direction and we set off. I don't mind, it's somewhere to go.
Finally I reach the spot I estimate the movement came from. The land is empty as far as I can see, enhanced or otherwise.
Perhaps my sight is working imperfectly, or the heat is blurring everything. Perhaps there had been no movement. Perhaps I only imagined it.
I walk a little further, in case I have under estimated, and am rewarded by the sight of thin tracks in the dust, faint, but unmistakeable. Two parallel trails, possibly of some tracked vehicle, smaller than me, and moving in either one of two directions. Not having any more data, I set off in the direction I am facing, which saves energy, and is therefore more logical, according to the signal.
The sun has moved quite a distance, and is now to my right. In that time my bounding strides have carried me a long way. Just how far, none of my systems can tell me. Before me, only a few metres away, a small tracked robot is scanning the area with a dish it produced from its back. The dish has pointed in my direction several times, but it has shown no reaction.
Scanner nulling circuits, the signal explains. The words almost fall out of my mind, but there is no further explanation. As the little robot moves on I follow. It stops again, this time I move closer before it can get away.
The vehicle opens a small door on its front and a thin tube appears. Automatically, my left arm comes up and the signal calmly advises me it is neutralising the threat. Frantically I think 'No, I don't want to', and my arm slowly drops. Although the signal is advising the former action. With a struggle I am able to control the thought, and the arm. I have no need to kill the little robot. But just as I have myself under control, the vehicle fires on me, causing a warm sensation in my chest and an alarm in my visor.
Moving forward, against the shots of what the signal tells me is a pulsed, low emission laser, I try to open communications and talk to it. There is no response to normal frequencies, (except from the visor which is reporting radio emissions from this unit which are revealing our position. I ignore it), so I switch to voice. But all that comes out is an incomprehensible croak. My voice circuits are too badly damaged after all.
Another alarm sounds and this time I am unable to stop the signal. My arm raises fluidly and a single blast of blue light burns through the small vehicle. It stops moving, its weapon sagging on its mount.
- Copyright Steve Dean