As Lydis was having dinner with Valfafer alone in the caravan's cafeteria Marlov appeared at the far side. He saw Lydis and waved his hand at her.
"Hey Lydis!" He walked over to her briskly. She was in mid chew so all Lydis could do was wave back awkwardly. Valfafer raised his head and, after judging Marlov to be friendly, went back to eating his food.
"I see you're eating well." Lydis had to suppress the urge to hide her face from embarrassment. She had waited until there was no one else at the cafeteria to take two whole tray loads of food. They were piled high with things like chicken legs, bread, bowls of soup, sweetened ribs, and a variety of other foods.
"Mhhm…" Since her mouth was full she responded as well as she could.
"Ha ha! It's good that you're eating. I thought you looked too skinny to begin with!" Marlov slapped Lydis's back in a friendly manner. She coughed a little and managed to swallow the half-chewed food.
"Did you need something Marlov?" She reached for a glass of water and gulped it down in mouthfuls.
"Ah, it's actually about the final distance to Caratas."
"What about it?"
"I just wanted to warn you about the dangers of when we get close to a city. The others all know the routine but this is your first time so I'm here to give you a heads up."
"Okay…" Lydis reached for another rib while dropping one for Valfafer too.
"You know that the caravan travels at incredible speeds right?"
"Well, we need to slow down the caravan's speed considerably tomorrow. Right from the very start. We'll only be moving at about sixty miles per hour instead of our usual one hundred fifty miles per hour pace we've been keeping until now." He waited for Lydis to say something, but she just continued to eat.
*sigh* "Anyways, at that speed we could get attacked by monsters or bandits near the city so I just wanted to warn you if anything were to happen. If we do get attacked under each bed is a small safe zone. It blocks smell, heat signs, sound, and slyphir leakage to a degree. Once you're in it locks itself and can only be opened from within. Stay there until a small green bulb lights up inside. That'll mean it's safe to come out. If a red light flashes then the caravan train will detach all the capsules but that's only in case of a dire emergency." Lydis licked the bone clean and tossed it in a pile with others.
"What kind of dire situation?"
"In a hypothetical situation, the caravan has been attacked by a hoard of monsters. They outnumber us and there's a rank five leader among them with a handful of rank four monsters as well. In that situation where me and all the other guards and staff have been killed the train will change course and launch the pods away from it. They can't be opened by anyone but a guard from the nearest city." Lydis nodded and continued to eat her food.
"Alright, that's all I came to talk about. I was actually about to head to your room when I saw you in the cafeteria." Marlov stood up and walked away, waving to Lydis as she ate. With a sticky hand covered in brown sweet sauce Lydis waved back and watched as Marlov turned around and disappeared into the darkness. Seeing as he was gone Lydis swallowed and bent down to Valfafer.
"Hey dog…" Valfafer stopped eating and raised his head, small chunks of meat littering his muzzle. While licking his nose he looked up at Lydis.
"You better go pee or poop tonight, there's no time tomorrow, got it?" Valfafer nodded and went back to scarfing down his food.
An hour later and Lydis was stuffed. She picked up the tray with bones stacked high and the other that held empty bowls and cups. Valfafer dragged his tray with his mouth and tried to follow Lydis to the trash area. After cleaning up Lydis picked up Valfafer and they walked back to her room quickly.
Valfafer flopped onto the bed, stuffed and satisfied. Lydis sat on a chair she had asked Marlov for earlier that day.
"Do you think we'll be attacked tomorrow?"
"I dunno, probably." Valfafer rolled upwards.
"What? Why?" Lydis used her left hand to read over her right shoulder and pressed a small button near the base of her neck. A slight fwssh noise hissed out of Lydis's right arm.
"Just think about it you dumb dog. Winter just ended and most monsters are probably waking up from their hibernation. Waking up hungry. Why wouldn't they attack a slower moving caravan filled with people and food?"
*gulp* "P-please don't happen! I don't want to be attacked!" Valfafer buried his head in the blanket, moving the pillow with his nose.
"Oh stop being paranoid." Lydis twisted her right arm a little to the left and pulled. Small wires slid out from her arm nub, the button retracted from her neck while the color of the arm changed from skin to a metallic silver.
"I'm never going to get used to seeing your arm like that." Valfafer had made a little burrow in the blankets and was watching as Lydis was detaching her arm.
"Well, it's already been a year and a half so you can't complain too much." Lydis tapped the floor twice and the table popped up again. She rested the arm on it. Reaching into the bag next to her feet she pulled out a small black case, about the size of a book. At this time Ui rolled to Lydis and changed into it's dragon form.
"Master Lydis. May I assist you?" It had flown up to land on the table as well. Ui's little paws were touching Lydis's fake arm, rolling it slightly.
"Can you make it stable? It's rolling too much." Ui beeped once and from one paw black string came out. Ui used it to press the arm against the table and stuck it on tightly. Ui began to methodically string down Lydis's fake arm. Soon it was tied in place with Ui's strings.
"I've completed my task master Lydis." Ui's red eyes beeped a bit and watched at Lydis took out small tools from the black case. She began inserting them in various places and the hand of the arm popped open, the skin plating pushing outwards to reveal the internal wiring. It mostly looked like a real human's arm except the blue wire in the middle and the grey shine of the other wires. Lydis took out a small scooper and began to clean in between the wires on her hands.
"Ui, can you give me some light?" Ui nodded and walked over to the hand, it's red eyes turning into lights. With a clear light Lydis went back to cleaning the hand of rib sauce and grease.
She had done it so many times that it was almost mechanical. As she worked Valfafer fell asleep on the bed, his body wrapped in the blanket. It took her about thirty minutes of cleaning and readjusting of the wiring until she was done. Satisfied Lydis placed the small tools back into the black case. Ui cut and reabsorbed the string and helped Lydis push the skin plating back into place. It was almost like a puzzle.
"Thanks for the help Ui." Lydis patted Ui's head with her left hand, her soft taps making his head bounce up and down slightly.
"Ui is glad to offer assistance." Lydis grabbed her fake arm and pressed it back against her nub. She could feel the small wires digging back into the holes for her nerves. The small button reached back up her neck and re-embedded itself into the bottom of her neck. Small nano bots covered the area where the skin met metal, hiding and holding the two together. The skin color returned to the arm. It looked no different from a real arm. It could also feel like skin and it was warm.
Flexing her fingers Lydis nodded in approval. Finally finished with her cleaning she flopped onto the bed, curling around Valfafer. Ui floated near the door and turned ff the lights. Then it flew to the head of the bed and went back into a ball shape. Lydis patted Ui gently before whispering,
"Goodnight Ui, Valfafer…" Unbeknownst to her Ui had secretly recorded those words for safekeeping. She fell asleep shortly after, her dreams filled with heart-warming memories.
That morning Marlov knocked on Lydis's door loudly. She shot up and fumbled out of bed, her hair a tangled mess. Sensing movement and without waiting for an answer Marlov slid the door open quickly.
"Lydis, you need to get ready. Breakfast is delayed but make sure you brace yourself. The tensest part of the trip is coming up." She nodded and Marlov was already onto the next room, warning the other passengers. Lydis stood half awake at the door while Ui slid it closed. Valfafer had already dragged a pair of clothes for her to wear from her lowest drawer. He sat expectantly, waiting for a head pat or a word of acknowledgement.
*yawn* "Good dog." Valfafer was very pleased. His tail began wagging wildly. Ui flew over and rested on Lydis's bed, it's eyes glued to Valfafer's tail which flicked left and right furiously.
Lydis changed her clothes and dressed in the loose-fitting clothes that Marlov had provided for her. Once again, her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail that stuck out at odd angles. Below her feet she felt the caravan come to like. Slowly all the cars rose a few feet from the floor and hovered midair. The engines began to propel the cars forward, slowly gaining speed. Lydis looked out her window as the scenery passed by. It went by slowly but soon they started to blur together as the caravan sped up.
They had only been travelling for three hours when Marlov came into Lydis's room.
"Hi Marlov." Lydis was teaching Valfafer to do different things at the time, Ui was on the window ledge recharging.
"Just came to check up on you one last time. In about an hour we should be able to start seeing the city walls." Lydis nodded and made a circle in the air with her finger. Valfafer turned around in a circle and sat down, eyes expectant.
"Thanks for checking up on me Marlov. I think I'll be fine when we get there so don't worry too much." She threw Valfafer a small piece of a doggy treat. He snatched it in midair and swallowed it whole.
"Ha! I guess if you're saying so, me worrying will just be pointless!" He smiled and left the room.
An hour passed by easily. Between playi- uh, teaching Valfafer, and poking at Ui's new form, Lydis was never bored. They passed a hilly range and finally the city of Caratas was in view.
Seemingly built like a fortress, the City of Caratas slowly crept into view. Tall towers surrounded by a thick steel wall, cameras stationed everywhere, it was the very definition of overbearing. As the caravan neared the city walls Lydis could see massive claw marks that littered the walls. A repair group was outside mending it as Lydis's car zoomed by through a side door unavailable to the public. Overhead the speakers in the car came to life.
"A reminder to all passengers, we will be reaching the caravan port in five minutes. Please do not leave any valuables on the cars as they will be treated as merchandise if found without an owner." The message continued playing for about a minute before stopping. Lydis was already long prepared to disembark
"Are you ready master?" Valfafer looked up at her. Ui followed and stared at Lydis with it's red eyes.
"If I can handle two years in a scouting squad on the front lines, I doubt a border city would scare me away." Lydis was prepared to enter human society, mainly the academies but, what gave her so much confidence was the knowledge that back at the scouting camp Valeri, Blair, Zai, Amber, Nova and Kyle were fighting and waiting for her triumphant return. No matter who stood in her way she had promised to be a soldier that they and her could all be proud of. This was just a small stepping stone on her path.
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