Chapter 24 Memories
"Feed me," said the creature, the moment the cylinder opened.
It crawled out slowly, and stood up. Dustin looked it over, and shook his head.
"Even if I had anything to feed you, why should I?"
"I'm hurt, Dustin. Why wouldn't you feed me? I thought we were good friends?" It cocked its head to the side, giving him a good view of its sharp teeth.
"Is that a threat?" he asked, his eyes narrowing, then he realized what it had said. "How do you know my name?"
Its eyes widened just a fraction of an inch. Then it looked him up and down carefully.
"No, no, you're definitely Dustin, why wouldn't I know your name?" It looked genuinely puzzled. "You don't look like you've aged a day since I saw you last, but I figured you had just finally gotten your device to reverse your aging. Honestly it was only a matter of time, after everything else you've done with it."
"What the hell are you talking about?" asked Dustin. Could this thing be talking about his original form? The one that had died in the explosion encased in crystal?
'PED…' he started. Making himself unage would be fucking awesome!
(I'M ON IT!)
"Hmmm, well…let's see if there's any food in the cafeteria, and then we can get caught up on what's been happening for the past hundred years or so."
Dustin shook his head as he followed the thing out of the room. It muttered to itself at how cold and awful the air was, as it trundled down the halls. How did this thing know its way around the station?
The mess hall was left in disarray when they had abandoned the station. Trays had been left, with food on them, on the tables and there was food still left in the buffet tables. Of course, none of it was recognizable, but that didn't stop the strange little creature from grabbing things and stuffing them in its mouth as it walked along the benches from one table to the next. He couldn't figure out how it could eat some of that stuff. A lot of it just looked like rocks and sticks, it had dried so bad.
"Alright," it said, sitting down finally and rubbing its belly as if it had just enjoyed a multicourse meal. "You are definitely Dustin, but you don't know me. Right?"
"Right," Dustin said, wondering if he should enlighten it to the fact that he wasn't the original Dustin.
"Well, that's a shame. We had some great adventures together, before those nasty humans grabbed you and your sister, Olivia. How's she doing by the way?"
"Wait! What???!!!!" Dustin almost fell down. She was his sister!?
Wincing, the creature looked at him. "Well, your adopted sister did have the hots for you."
His heart slowed down and he remembered how to breath. For a second, he was imagining her killing him when she found out she was his sister, but now he never needed to mention it to her.
"Could you sit down? I'm not sure what's wrong with you, but you looked like you were going to faint for a moment there," it said, cocking its head to the side again.
"Only if you could tell me who you are, and how you know me," he said, sitting on the nearest bench.
"Well, when you were six, I found you digging through the innards of a military robot of the Huwaq. If they had found you, they would have killed you in a heartbeat. I'm still not sure how you got on that battlefield, and whether you were the one who had taken down the robot. You didn't like to talk much."
Dustin could see that. Though he was definitely sure this thing was talking about the original now. Should he inform it? Thinking for a moment, he sighed. It would be better to tell it now, rather than it finding out later.
"Um, I'm not the Dustin you're thinking I am…"
"You have the same signature as him. How could you not be him?"
"Well, the humans took some of his genetic material and made twenty of us. So, I'm like his brother."
"Impossible. You don't have the signature of a brother. You have his signature. I would know as a Gooblen."
Dustin closed his eyes for a moment, then explained how the humans were trying to clone his people, but failed when they came to the original Dustin. The thing listened respectfully, then shook its head.
"I don't care what you found on some computer, but I know your signature. Did you find absolute proof of a cylinder where you were supposedly grown?"
He opened his mouth, then shut it. He had been told multiple times that the twenty were grown, and he had seen 15 in a tank, but it was in a specimen tank, without any other obvious tanks that could be used for such. The original Dustin had seemed to think they were grown, but things he had discovered in the stations there, did not add up with the things he had found here. It was almost as if someone had gone to a lot of effort to hide and change information about him and the Uz'En.
"Ok, look. I've found so many different things on so many different computers, and from so many people who seemed to think what they were telling me was true, for me to find out later that it was wrong, that I really don't know what to think. My mind was messed with by the Josagn, as was Olivia's, so we don't really know what the truth is."
"Oh! Well, that's easy enough to fix!" It hopped up and slapped him in the face, so quickly, he didn't respond to it.
Memories started flooding his mind.
Crawling through the remains of robots in a battlefield for parts to make a PED, though it wasn't called that then. Escaping the patrols that were hunting for him, stealing food from human camps, wondering who was friend or foe, meeting Olivia for the first time on an alien world that was fraught with war, and hiding in a sewer with her while he perfected his device.
The humans found them, but Olivia made them pay for it. Bodies had littered the ground when they finally subdued her. He had glared at them, determined that they would never take him alive, but they did of course. Staring at a man who looked like him, and convincing him to trade places with him, to try and hide as much from the humans, before they discovered the truth.
The uncertainty of his future, and the future of his people. They were scattered everywhere and they didn't understand the PED well enough to reproduce it. Could they hide well enough not to be purged? It was just the A'Dfukl hunting them, but now the humans and the Josagn had joined in. Who else would try and kill them? Could he save his people?
Kneeling on the ground, he couldn't seem to catch his breath. The memories had stopped, but they were still there, waiting for him to access them. He was a prince of his people, gifted with the knowledge of technology, something that none of them understood. They had the gift to change themselves to look like others, but it was arduous and took a long time. With the device he had designed, they could do it much easier, without the needed training and understanding that was needed before. No talent for it was necessary, and it only took moments to complete. They would be safer, or so he had thought.